60 Minutes Piece on Child Farmworkers Misses the Mark

The Missing Piece

Posted on May 27, 2011 by Ayrianne Parks, Communications Director, AFOP; and Reid Maki, Coordinator, Child Labor Coalition

This past Sunday, 60 Minutes focused much needed attention on the issue of child labor in U.S. agriculture. The piece, which may have seemed balanced to the average viewer, failed to convey the dangers child farmworkers are exposed to, including toxic pesticides, razor-sharp tools, and the educational harm that they suffer.

The show’s segment called, “The debate on child labor,” focused mostly on agricultural economics from the perspective of a migrant farmworker family and a grower—both struggling to get by. However, this is an issue that existed far before the recession. Farmworkers make an average of $10,000 to $12,000 annually with no benefits. These extremely low wages in farm work, often compel parents to bring their very young children to work in agriculture, an environment most—including the father interviewed—hope their children will have the opportunity to escape in adulthood to pursue their dreams. The grower interviewed pointed out that Americans want cheap produce and that comes at a price paid by the sweat and toil of laborers.

Byron Pitts, who reported on the issue, also interviewed Norma Flores López, AFOP’sChildren in the Fields Campaign Program Director and Domestic Issues Chair of the Child Labor Coalition. Several months ago, when 60 Minutes filmed its interview of Flores López, a former migrant farmworker child herself, she spoke in detail about the educational and health consequences of child labor. While most of her concerns did not make it into the show, 60 Minutes did post some of her comments on their website, but it is likely few Americans will see them. The average viewer who watched the show will come away with the impression that plucky farmworker kids will survive their years of child labor without suffering many negative consequences. Some do, most do not.

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Poquoson Company Pleads Guilty in Wood Chipper Fatality

Associated Press

POQUOSON (AP) — A landscaping company has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor safety violation stemming from a wood chipper accident that killed a 14-year-old worker.

The Daily Press reports that Old Tree Dominion and Lawn Care owner Robert Lee Strickland Jr. entered the plea Thursday on behalf of his company.

Assistant York-Poquoson Commonwealth’s Attorney Patricia A. Dart says a felony child endangerment charge against Strickland was dropped.

Strickland was the guardian of the victim, Frank Anthony Gornick, who was killed in November 2010. Authorities say the teen was using a shovel to drop debris into a wood chipper’s hopper when he was pulled into the machine.

Dart says the company was fined $35,000 with all but $1,000 suspended for five years.

Information from: Daily Press,

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Ghana Police Rescue 116 Children from Forced Labor

ACCRA, Ghana—Ghanaian police say they have rescued 116 children who were forced into child labor in the country’s Volta Lake area.

Human Trafficking Unit leader Superintendent Patience Quaye said Friday that police found parents in fishing communities who had sold children as young as four years old for sums as low as 150 Ghana cedis — about $100.

Quaye says child labor is a widespread problem in the West African nation. She says police rescued 284 children in a similar operation last year.

Interpol, which worked with Ghanaian police, said the operation earlier this month led to 28 arrests and convictions.

Interpol also said they conducted a separate operation in the capital, Accra, that rescued 29 minors who had been trafficked into the sex industry.


Maine lawmakers loosen teen work rules–roll back Child Labor Protections

By Mal Leary, Capitol News Service

Posted May 26, 2011, at 6:13 p.m.
Last modified May 27, 2011, at 9:46 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine – Gov. Paul LePage is expected to sign into law legislation allowing 16- and 17-year-olds in Maine to work longer hours during the school year, his office confirmed Thursday. But the legislation provoked lengthy debate before being enacted earlier this week, with some lawmakers arguing students need to be students first.

“In this case Maine has had the most restrictive laws related to 16- and 17-year-olds in the nation,” Sen. Chris Rector, R-Thomaston, the co-chair of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, said during debate on the bill.  ”We have been the outliers, far more restrictive than our New England counterparts and far more restrictive than most other states.”

He said the legislation brings Maine more into line with other states, although the bill was considerably watered down from its original version, sponsored by Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, which would have lifted all restrictions on the number of hours 16-year-olds could work while school is not in session. It also would have repealed all limitations on the hours a 17-year-old may work.

As amended by lawmakers, the limit for both age groups is 24 hours in a week, with a six-hour-per-day limit, up from the current four-hour limit per day. It also bans work after 10:15 p.m. on a day preceding a school day.

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On Missing Children’s Day, Murray Pledges Trafficking Bill Passage

By Colleen Quinn

State House News Service

Cambridge- Senate President Therese Murray promised advocates of missing children Monday that lawmakers would pass legislation targeting human trafficking.Cambridge —

The Plymouth Democrat made her commitment as Magi and John Bish, whose daughter Molly went missing in 2000, gathered with a group of parents at the State House to mark something no parent ever wants to make note of – their missing children.

The Bishes returned to the state capitol Monday for the 11th annual Massachusetts Missing Children’s Day. They come every year to bring attention to abductions and to missing children never found. Currently, 38 children are missing in the state, according to the Molly Bish Foundation.

Attorney General Martha Coakley thanked the Bishes for reminding law enforcement about “all the people who are touched by a missing child.” Coakley is pushing for Massachusetts to pass legislation that would establish state crimes of human trafficking in labor and sex. She wants to create a task force to study human trafficking, and increase the penalties for “Johns” to target the demand side of trafficking in prostitution. Massachusetts is one of four states in the nation that does not have human trafficking laws.

“We have this problem right in our own backyard,” Coakley said.

The Bish Foundation presented Murray with a legislative award and Murray said it was important to hold the event annually as a reminder of all the missing children.

“The devastation, I can’t imagine losing your child, and not knowing what happened or where, and that they won’t come back. I can’t imagine it,” Murray said.

Speaking to the trafficking bill, Murray said, “God we will pass that human trafficking” bill.

Magi Bish said she comes year after year and relives the horror she went through when her daughter was abducted and murdered because she wants lawmakers and law enforcement officials to recognize the dangers that exist for children. Bish said she would tell every parent to make sure their children know there are people who could hurt them, and teach them how to protect themselves.

“You need to have your child have awareness, to be smart,” she said. “We need to give them the tools to be safe.”

During the summer of 2000 Molly Bish was taken from Comins Pond in Warren where she was working as a lifeguard. Her mother had just dropped her off for work. Her body was found three years later, but her killer was never caught.

“Eleven years ago we decided we needed to do something. We need to work with the Legislature to make sure our children are safe,” said Bish, who launched the Molly Bish Foundation to advocate for tougher laws surrounding child abduction and child abuse.

Another parent of an abducted child, Bob Curley, said his son was taken from his East Cambridge home and murdered in 1997. Jeffrey Curley was a 10-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted and murdered by two men who promised him a new bike if he went with them. His body was found days later in a river in southern Maine. The two men were convicted and sent to jail. Curley said he felt “more fortunate” than other parents of abducted children because his son’s body was found, and he was able to “bring him home.”

In the fall of 1997, Curley’s murder ignited an emotionally-charged debate to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts, which came one vote shy of passing. The Senate had approved a bill that would have allowed prosecutors to seek the death penalty in 15 categories of first-degree murder. But the House doomed the capital punishment bill in a tied 80-80 vote. Former Rep. John Slattery (D-Peabody) flipped his vote at the last minute, and prevented the measure from passing. At the time, Gov. Paul Cellucci slammed Slattery after discovering the death penalty lacked one vote of support.

During Monday’s Missing Children’s Day, one particularly emotional moment came during the event when the mother of a young girl kidnapped 10 years ago collapsed on the floor crying. She was helped to her feet by Gov. Deval Patrick, who tried to comfort her.

After a short pause in the ceremony, Bish told those assembled, “Our hearts are quite broken. They never quite heal. Keep us in your prayers.” Patrick then hugged Bish for several moments before he left the event.

A few minutes earlier, Patrick relayed a story from his own life when one of his daughters, Sarah, disappeared for a few minutes when she was 4 years old. They were waiting for a relative at Logan Airport when he turned around for a minute, and when he turned back she was gone, Patrick said.

“It was 10 minutes, maybe 15. I had no idea where this little girl was,” Patrick said, adding he found her sitting under a security desk, where a security guard told her to wait while they looked for her father.

“That 10 or 15 minutes left an incredible hold in my heart and my soul. I cannot even imagine what it is like to carry that around for months, for years,” Patrick said. “That ache has got to be just as fresh after a long period of time as it was in that first 10 or 15 minutes.”

Patrick called the Missing Children’s Day a “sober” but important occasion and promised the families that lawmakers would do whatever they could to make sure children are safe.

Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre), who represents the area where Bish was killed, said he was forever changed the day she disappeared.

“It is seared in our memories. It is part of who we are. It is always in our consciousness,” said Brewer, who hosted the group.

Brewer told the parents that lawmakers “are resolute in this building and in Washington D.C.” in trying to better protect children.

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Bill eases Child Labor Restrictions in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine—A bill to ease Maine’s child labor restrictions faces further House and Senate action after winning preliminary House approval.

Assistant Senate Republican Leader Debra Plowman’s bill would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work longer hours and more often while school is in session.

Those teen-agers would be allowed to work as many as 24 hours rather than the 20 per week under current law. The bill would also increase from four to six the number of hours students can work on school days. The Sun Journal of Lewiston says the bill won preliminary House approval Wednesday.

A separate bill that sought to allow lower minimum wages for youths and remove limits on their school-week work hours has been killed.

Information from: Sun-Journal,


Child Soldiers Add Questions for Pakistan

Bill Gunyon, OneWorld Guides

( – A new focus on Pakistan in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict may complicate the task of rebuilding relations with the US in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Submitted to the Security Council as part of the UN’s responsibility for promoting and protecting the rights of children, Ban Ki-moon’s 55-page report paints a grim picture of the entrapment of both boys and girls in the world’s most degrading conflicts.

From the section headed “Developments in Pakistan”, it is clear that children have become active agents within the flow of warmongering personnel and equipment across the notoriously porous border with Afghanistan. Their assignments range from passive couriers to tragically unwitting suicide bombers in both countries.

The report refers to the escalation of terrorist and sectarian violence across Pakistan by groups linked to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, such as Tehrik-i-Taliban and Lashkar i Jhangvi. “Children have been used by these armed groups to carry out suicide attacks,” the UN says.

The most damning evidence is cited by the UN child rights monitoring team in Afghanistan which claims to possess “documented and verified cases of Afghan children recruited and trained in Pakistan by armed groups, including the Taliban.”

Such exploitation of children from both countries inside Pakistan will come as a disappointment to UN agencies after earlier reassurances given by Pakistan authorities.

In his corresponding report published a year ago, the Secretary-General referred to Pakistan’s formal submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. This promised “strict measures to stop recruitment of children by non-State actors, in addition to initiating reforms to streamline and regulate the madrasahs that were the major source.”

Nevertheless, advisers to Ban Ki-moon have stopped short of recommending that militant groups active in Pakistan should be included in the report’s “list of parties” that recruit or use children in armed conflict.

This annexed list is significant in that it may provoke the UN Security Council into demanding government action plans to enforce protection of children.

In some circumstances the list can also trigger a response under the US Child Soldier Prevention Act. Signed into law in 2008, this law blocks US military aid to countries which support paramilitary or militia groups recruiting under-age personnel. The armed forces in Pakistan are very substantially dependent on US aid.

The question of whether or not the Pakistan government and its institutions “support” terrorist groups lies at the heart of recriminations following the death of bin Laden on Pakistan territory at the hands of special US forces.

There is an unexpected twist in the UN report on Children and Armed Conflict which may add fuel to this bonfire of ambiguities.

The report addresses circumstances in which children are the victims of violence, as well as perpetrators. The Secretary-General has highlighted his concerns about attacks on schools and hospitals by anarchic militant groups. In conflict zones, schools may find themselves in the firing line from various quarters, from religious zealots to recruiting sergeants.

Amongst 15 countries identified by Ban Ki-moon as suffering such attacks, Pakistan stands out. Groups opposed to secular education and girls’ education have destroyed no fewer than 273 schools in Malakand, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The Secretary-General has chosen this issue for the headline recommendation of his report. He requests that “the Security Council add parties to conflict that are attacking schools and hospitals to the annex of the report.”

It seems very likely therefore that militant groups in Pakistan will be added to what is described in the UN press release as the “List of Shame”.

Whether exposure in a child rights context will trigger consequences for US-Pakistan relations is very uncertain. Indeed Ban Ki-moon has stamped his impartiality on the report by including reference to controversial US drone attacks on targets inside Pakistan.

“No data is available on the number of children killed or injured in those attacks,” the report says. “The United Nations does not have access to these sites to undertake any independent verification.”


Burkina Faso: Texting to Help Domestic Workers

Ouagadougou — Naba Wangré, manager of the child labour project at the Burkina Faso Red Cross, sends bluntly worded text messages to government officials, employers, traditional leaders, teachers, business owners and housewives several times a year, trying to reduce the widespread exploitation of domestic workers by raising awareness of their rights.

“Employers: domestics have the same rights as your children. Stop under-paying them; stop subjecting them to mistreatment, sexual violence, and long hours”, said a recent SMS from Wangré, who uses lists of phone numbers provided by the local network. Read more


Child Labor Rates Go Up in Colombia

BOGOTA, May 2 (UPI) — Colombia experienced a sharp rise in the volume of child workers in the last five years, officials say a study reveals.

A report by the non-profit communications agency PANDI said there was about a 35 percent spurt in child labor between 2007 and 2009, Colombia Reports said Monday.

The agency said at least 1,050,147 children were employed in 2009 compared with about 787,000 in 2007.

Colombia’s rural areas constitute the highest proportion of the child workers with 37 percent of the underage workforce associated with some form of agricultural work.

The current law permits children to work up to 14 hours per week.

At least 58 percent of child laborers work more than the daily maximum, while 11 percent work more than 48 hours a week.

The rise in the underage workforce has been primarily attributed to the global economic crisis.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Child labor rates go up in Colombia

BOGOTA, May 2 (UPI) — Colombia experienced a sharp rise in the volume of child workers in the last five years, officials say a study reveals.

A report by the non-profit communications agency PANDI said there was about a 35 percent spurt in child labor between 2007 and 2009, Colombia Reports said Monday.

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