1832 – The New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen officially condemns child labor.
1836 – Massachusetts creates the first state child labor law requiring factory children under 15 to go to school a minimum of 3 months per year.
1836 – Early trade unions at the National Trades’ Union Convention propose requiring state minimum age laws for factory work.
1842 – Massachusetts limits children to working 10 hours per day. Many states do the same but are not consistent in enforcing their laws.
1876 – The Working Men’s Party proposes prohibiting the employment of children younger than 14.
1881 – The American Federation of Labor at their first national convention calls for states to enact legislation barring children under 14 from wage labor.
1883 – The New York labor movement, under the leadership of Samuel Gompers, attempts to end child labor in the cigar industry by successfully sponsoring legislation that bans production in tenements, where many of young children work in the trade.
1889 – Florence Kelley publishes “Our Toiling Children,” which outlines the state of child labor and urges consumers to use their influence to improve working conditions.
1892 – The Democratic Party adopts a plank in their platform, which recommends banning factory employment for children under age 15.
1899 – The National Consumers’ League under the leadership of Florence Kelley launches its “white label” campaign in the women’s garment industry. The white label certified that goods were produced following minimum fair labor standards and were free of child labor.
1901 –Jane Addams founds the Juvenile Protective Association to advocate against racism, child labor, exploitation, child abuse, and child prostitution in Chicago and their effects on child development. [N1]
1903 – Mother Jones organizes working children in the “Children’s Crusade,” a march from Pennsylvania to the home of President Theodore Roosevelt in New York with banners demanding “we want time to play” and “we want to go to school.” Though the President refuses to meet with the marchers, the incident brings the issue of child labor to the forefront of the public agenda.
1904 – The National Child Labor Committee is formed with the goal of abolishing all child labor.
1908 – In the case of Muller v. Oregon the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of states to limit the number of hours women could work in certain industries. Louis Brandeis argues the case on behalf of the National Consumers’ League, and it sets a legal precedent whereby child labor laws could be instituted.
1912 – The U.S. Children’s Bureau is founded with Julia Lathrop as its first head. The organization is poised to monitor the situation of children at home and at work.
1916 – Congress passes the Keating-Owen Act, which bans the interstate sale of any article produced with child labor (factory, cannery, and mine) and regulates the number of hours a child could work. The Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court two years later.
1924 – Congress adopts a constitutional amendment barring child labor and sends the amendment out to be ratified by the state legislatures. Not enough states ratify the child labor amendment for it to become law.
1936 – The Walsh-Healey Act sets safety standards, minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor provisions on all federal contracts.
1938 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes putting limits on many forms of child labor.
1949 – An amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act directly prohibits child labor for the first time.[N2]
1976 – The International Labour Organization’s Convention 138 becomes international law. Known as the “Minimum Age Convention,” it sets out to abolish child labor among school-aged children.
1989 – At the conclusion of a successful congressional forum on child labor, the National Consumers League and the International Labor Rights Fund establish the Child Labor Coalition, a U.S.-based member organization to work on domestic and international child labor issues.
1992 – Senator Tom Harkin first proposes the Child Labor Deterrence Act, which would ban the importation of products made with child labor. He reintroduces the legislation in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999.
1994 – Kailash Satyarthi founds Rugmark, an organization seeking to stop the exploitation of children in the carpet industry by building up the supply and demand for child labor free products. A year later the first child-labor-free certified carpets are exported from India.
1995 – Iqbal Masih, a former child slave in the carpet industry in Pakistan, is murdered for his international advocacy of child rights at the age of 13. His courage and determination continues to inspire children, activists, and officials.
1997 – The Associated Press publishes a series entitled “Children for Hire” on the continuing exploitation of children working in US agriculture.
2000 – Human Rights Watch publishes a report outlining the exploitation of children in US agriculture entitled “Fingers to the Bone: United States Failure to Protect Child Farmworkers.” A follow-up report in 2010 reveals that these conditions still exist.
2000 – The International Labour Organization’s Convention 182 becomes international law. This convention defines and condemns the worst forms of child labor, which include slavery, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, trafficking, and any other “work which, by its nature… is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.”
2001 – The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE) is introduced by Senator Tom Harkin in the Senate and Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard in the House. This bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase penalties for violations of child labor laws and repeal certain exemptions from child labor prohibitions for agricultural employment.
2002 – The United States ratifies the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, enacted by the UN in 2000. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has still not been ratified by the US.
2012 – Under strong pressure from the Agriculture lobby, the White House forces the US Department of Labor to withdraw proposed rules to protect children working for wages in US agriculture from known hazards. In a complete abdication, the Obama Administration announces it will not revisit these rules during its tenure. These hazardous occupation orders for agriculture have not been updated in over 40 years.
2013 – The International Labour Organization releases quadrennial estimates that reveals a drop of 47 million child laborers over the last four years internationally, leaving 168 million youth still in child labor and 85 million trapped in hazardous work.