CLC PRESS RELEASE: Congress narrowly avoids shutdown of programs targeting child labor

85 million children are currently in dangerous, dirty, and degrading jobs; $53 million saved in budget deal to ensure children are protected from exploitative labor 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition, (202) 207-2820,

Washington, DC—The Congressional budget package released today continues funding for programs to end child labor after the House and Senate voted to cut funding to the Department of Labor’s impactful and critical program in June 2015. The International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) directs the U.S. Government’s efforts to end forced labor and child labor around the world. Advocates for protecting children from child labor are thankful for Congressional leadership.

“We are glad to see Congress putting actual funds to support their stated commitment to end the exploitation and abuse of children in the worst forms of child labor. The ILAB funding supports programs to help end and prevent the exploitation of children, said Melysa Sperber, Director the Alliance to Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), “This bipartisan support is critical to keeping the U.S. as a global leader in ending the exploitation of men, women, and children in forced labor and exploitation.”

Currently 85 million children are in dangerous, dirty, and degrading jobs that prevent them from attending school, and are harmful to their physical, mental, and social development, known as hazardous child labor. Boys and girls work in many places including agriculture, mining, quarrying, fishing, factories, domestic work, and commercial sexual exploitation exposing them to harm. 5.5 million of these children are in forced labor.

“We are pleased that Congressional appropriators decided not to eliminate these highly effective child labor programs,” said Reid Maki, Director of Child Labor Advocacy for the National Consumers League and the coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, representing 35 organizations. “Since 2000, nearly 80 million children have been removed from child labor. Child labor numbers have been reduced by one-third. The Department of Labor’s programs helped bring about these dramatic results and eliminating these programs would have meant turning back the clock to a time when the US government did little to help children escape the shackles of child slavery and the worst forms of child labor. Instead, we look forward to continuing progress in reducing these scourges.”

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Filipino children risk death to dive and dig for gold

By Deborah Andrews, CLC Contributing Writer

Deborah Andrews the real oneIn September 2015, Human Rights Watch released a report, “Phillipines: Children Risk Death to Dig and dive for Gold,” exposing the desperate working conditions of many of those involved in the Filipino gold mining industry. It is a worthy, informative and thought provoking read. In 2014, the Philippines produced 18 tons of gold. HRW researchers discovered that an estimated 70-80% came from small-scale mines, financed by local businessmen and operated without any basic machinery. These mines are worked by 200,000-300,000 people — many of them children aged 11-17, but some as young as 9 years old.

Most gold in the Philippines is underwater. To mine it, workers dive into narrow shafts often ten yards deep and only two feet wide. Using oxygen tubes to breathe, operated by a diesel compressor at the surface, workers can stay mining under water for 1-2 hours at a time. This is hazardous work. HRW researchers found that compressors frequently break due to mudslides; workers get extremely cold underwater; the diesel compressors can cause carbon monoxide poisoning; and a bacterium in the water causes a skin disease known as Romborombo that leaves skin irritated and infected.

Dry shafts can be 25 yards deep and have oxygen pumped into them by an air blower. Workers often work up to 24-hour shifts with only a short break above ground. There are frequent accidents. In 2014, two brothers suffocated, but the practice continues.

Disturbingly, HRW report authors discovered that mercury is widely used to process the gold. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin, causing muscle spasms, brain damage, permanent disability, and even death. It is particularly harmful to children’s developing nervous systems. This unrestricted mercury use is now also contaminating the fish population, a vital food source – further endangering the people.

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Hyatt Hotels Chain Signs ‘The Code’

Mary DonovanBy CLC Contributing Writer Mary Donovan

On December 10, 2015, Hyatt Hotels Corporation re-affirmed its efforts to fight child trafficking by signing a code of conduct known simply as “the Code.” This is a big step forward in the fight against human trafficking and the abuse and exploitation of girls and young women, and in some cases, boys and young men caught in the so-called “sex industry.”

The Code is an industry-driven initiative to prevent the sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry through awareness, tools, and support. It was developed by End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (EPCAT) the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and UNICEF.

The sexual exploitation of children often takes place in hotels. Hotels are a prime place for this crime because traffickers and pimps can avoid being caught by paying for hotel rooms in cash and switching rooms nightly. Polaris, a global anti-trafficking non-profit, reported that 35% of survivors said hotels and motels were the primary places sexual exploitation occurred. These facts make the tourism industry a good place to start to combat the sexual exploitation of children.

When an organization signs the Code, they commit to following six steps. These steps include training employees and providing information for travelers on how to report suspected cases, adding clauses to contracts with a zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children, and reporting annually on the implementation of The Code. The goal is to have a prepared and aware tourism industry that can recognize and prevent crimes against children. Wanting recognition as responsible brands, becoming leaders in the tourism industry, and making the community safer for children were motivations for organizations to sign.

The Code now has 1,287 signatories. Notable ones in addition to Hyatt are Hilton, Carlson, Choice Hotels International and Delta Airlines. Signatories come from all around the world, from Bangkok to Jamaica to Bulgaria.

Hyatt Hotels Corporation already has a good record of working against trafficking. In 2012 they worked with Polaris to develop a mandatory human trafficking training program for employees. Their announcement, released on International Human Rights Day, of signing the code deepens their commitment to being a responsible business.

Millions of children are sold into sexual exploitation around the world each year. In order to stop these crimes we must be able to identify when and where they are taking place. Human trafficking is a high-profit and low-risk industry, mainly because of the ability of traffickers to conduct hidden crimes. Initiatives like The Code elevate the risks traffickers face by increasing the chances of detection and making it harder for them to connect with consumers who are fueling the industry of human trafficking. We urge consumers to be a responsible traveler and stay at hotels who have signed “The Code.”


Child Labor Programs in Grave Danger

Despite great progress in reducing child labor, Congress is very close to cutting all of the Department of Labor’s funding for child labor grant programs. Both the House and Senate have proposed cuts in their budgets and advocates have responded loudly. Over the last 5 months advocates have sent emails to every Member of Congress telling them about the importance of these programs. We are now at a critical moment. Congress must agree on a budget before December 11th to avoid a government shutdown.

The next couple of weeks are critical for the U.S. fight to end child labor.

The final decisions around funding for the federal government for the coming year are being made right now and we need your voices more than ever in the fight to restore funding to protect children from harmful and exploitative child labor.  These decisions now rest with the highest levels of leadership in Congress and we need you to join us in contacting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in particular to let him know that we will not accept cuts to crucial programs that protect children.  What might take you just 30 seconds, could mean all the difference in the life of a child!

Please use the following script to contact Senator McConnell (202-224-3135) :

I’m calling Senator McConnell to express my concern that the final appropriations package might not include critical funding at the Department of Labor that protects children.  The International Labor Affairs Bureau is America’s largest program to prevent and respond to child labor and has helped protect 1.94 million children from the worst forms of child labor. Please tell Senator McConnell that he must quickly restore ILAB funding or tens of thousands of children will be soon put at risk of the worst abuses of the labor market.  Thank you for taking my call and for passing my message along to the Senator.


Action Needed: Help Us Save the Progress on Child Labor that Has Been Made

[An important blog from CLC-member World Vision. A call to action appears further below]:

Action needed: An update from Cambodia on the fight against child labor.

We want to say thank you to our advocates. In addition to making phone calls and having meetings, you have sent over 15,000 emails to members of Congress asking that funding be restored to the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) for programs that help fight child labor. We are down to the eleventh hour for these programs — we now need your help to thank the champions as well as help remind key decision makers that these types of cuts will not go unnoticed. 

You are the reason Congress is still talking about theses programs, the reason these cuts have not gone unheeded. Jessica Bousquette shares from her recent trip to Cambodia, where she saw the positive effects of ILAB programs to help prevent child labor first hand. Then we share the two things you can do — in less than two minutes — to continue the fight for these programs. Your two minutes could change the life of a child.

By Jessica Bousquette

Around the houses perched on stilts, green rice shoots swayed gently in the wind and cars raced up the dirt road.  We sat on a blue tarp in a community near Siem Reap, a tourist hotspot in Cambodia famous for the World Heritage site Angkor Wat. As a toddler waddled between adults, I sat with a community group of about a dozen women and one man as they recounted how their life and their family’s lives had changed a result of being a part of a savings group.

The group has been working together for over a year to increase their savings through mutual support and accountability. With the savings, the group has been able to provide loans to members to expand their home businesses and agricultural productivity. When a member has an emergency, like an unexpected hospital visit, they can receive an emergency loan. This not only transforms their families’ access to income and nutrition, but also protects their children from hazardous labor. Oftentimes around the world, children end up working to pay off debts that arise when families cannot financially handle unexpected emergencies.

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