More than two million adolescents aged 15 to 17 years work in the U.S. Retail establishments, restaurants, and grocery stores are three of the largest employers of teen workers. Agriculture also employs large numbers of minors and because of exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act, children in agriculture are allowed to work at younger ages and to perform more dangerous tasks at younger ages than other working children.

New CLC Press Release: Chocolate Companies Must Do More to Reduce Widespread Child Labor Confirmed by New Report on the West African Cocoa Sector; Due Diligence Legislation is Needed to Fix Supply Chains

Chocolate Companies Must Do More to Reduce Widespread Child Labor Confirmed by New Report on the West African Cocoa Sector; Due Diligence Legislation is Needed to Fix Supply Chains

 

For immediate release: October 21, 2020

Contact: Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org 

 

Washington, DC – A new report out this week confirms that the chocolate industry’s deep dependence on child labor to produce cocoa, a main ingredient of chocolate, continues unabated in West Africa despite nearly two decades of interventions and manufacturers’ promises to end the worst forms of child labor. The  report confirms what advocates at the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which consists of 38 child rights groups, consumer groups, and worker rights organizations (including several of America’s largest unions), have been saying for years. According to the new study by the research group NORC at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of child labor in agricultural households in cocoa-producing areas in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the two primary sources of cocoa in the world, increased from 31 percent to 45 percent in the decade leading up to 2019.

 

The $3.5 million study, funded by U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), released earlier this week, confirms that rampant child labor still exists on Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa farms. Researchers also concluded that the vast majority of the child labor continues to be hazardous, with children using sharp tools like machetes, clearing land, carrying heavy loads, working long hours, conducting night work, and increasingly using pesticides and other agrochemicals—a major concern.… Read the rest

It’s Time for U.S. Tobacco Companies to Protect All Child Tobacco Workers with a Complete Ban on Children in Tobacco Fields

By Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition

In 2014, under pressure from advocacy groups like the Child Labor Coalition and Human Rights Watch (HRW) concerned about hazardous child labor on tobacco farms, several tobacco companies operating in the U.S. announced they would only buy tobacco from growers who agree not to hire children under 16 to work in contact with tobacco plants.

Child rights and human rights groups had been pushing for a ban on all children – aged 17 and below – from harvesting tobacco because of health problems related to nicotine exposure. These negative health impacts were well-documented in Tobacco’s Hidden Children, a report from HRW published in May 2014.

“Children interviewed by Human Rights Watch in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia frequently described feeling seriously, acutely sick, while working in tobacco farming,” noted HRW.  Carla P., 16, who worked for hire on tobacco farms in Kentucky with her parents and her younger sister told Human Rights Watch she got sick while pulling the tops off tobacco plants: “I didn’t feel well, but I still kept working. I started throwing up. I was throwing up for like 10 minutes, just what I ate. I took a break for a few hours, and then I went back to work.’

Another child worker interviewed by HRW, Emilio R., a 16-year-old seasonal worker in eastern North Carolina, said he had headaches that sometimes lasted up to two days while working in tobacco: “With the headaches, it was hard to do anything at all.… Read the rest

167 Organizations Endorse Legislation (CARE) to Close Child Labor Loopholes that Endanger the Health, Safety and Educational Development of Farmworker Children

The Child Labor Coalition is reaching out for organizational endorsements of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety, H.R. 3394, which would end exploitative child labor in U.S. agriculture.

167 great groups have endorsed this much-needed legislation.

We ask organizations to help us advance this vital legislation which would remove the exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act that allow children to work unlimited hours in agriculture at the age of 12; these exemptions also allow child farmworkers to perform hazardous work at the age of 16. A text of the bill can be found here.

The educational impact of child labor on U.S. farmworker children has been devastating. We estimate that two out of three children who work in the fields drop out of school.

Rep. Roybal-Allard’s press release explains why there is an urgent need to protect farmworker children and how the bill accomplishes this.

Organizations that wish to add their names to the list of endorsers, please email reidm@nclnet.org .

The following 167 organizations have endorsed the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety:

Action for Children North Carolina
AFL-CIO
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
Alliance for Justice 
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers 
American Medical Women’s Association
Amnesty International USA 
Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance 
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs 
Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) 
Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, & Grain Millers  International Union 
Bank Information Center
Beyond Borders
Beyond Pesticides
Bon Appétit Management Company 
California Human Development 
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation 
Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities
CATA – Farmworkers’ Support Committee  (NJ, PA, MD)
Center for Human Rights of Children, Loyola University
Center for Progressive Reform
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante
Child Labor Coalition 
Child Welfare League of America
Children’s Alliance (Washington State) 
CLASP
Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking–CAST
Coalition of Immokalee Workers 
Coalition on Human Needs
Communications Workers of America 
Community Farm Alliance
Corporate Accountability Lab
CREA: Center for Reflection, Education and Action 
Delaware Ecumenical Council on Children and Families
Dialogue on Diversity 
Earth Ethics
Earth Justice
East Coast Migrant Head Start Project 
Episcopal Farmworker Ministry (North Carolina)
Fair World Project
Families USA
Farm Labor Organizing Committee 
Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project (Illinois)
Farmworker Association of Florida 
Farmworker Justice 
Feminist Majority Foundation
First Focus Campaign for Children 
Food and Water Action
Food Chain Workers Alliance 
Food Empowerment Project
Food Policy Action Education Fund
Food Tank
Friends of the Earth
Futures Without Violence
General Federation of Women’s Clubs 
Girls Inc.
Read the rest

After 20 Years of Little Results, New Approaches are Needed to End Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector

Here at the National Consumers League we are very proud that we’ve been a leader in the fight to end child labor since our founding in 1899. Thrity one years ago, we established the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which merges the resources of nearly 40 groups that are committed to the fight to eliminate child labor. The CLC brings together several major unions and a variety of child rights and human rights groups to perform child labor advocacy.

In the last few years, the coalition has focused increasing energy on child labor in cocoa.  In 2001, news broke that cocoa–the main ingredient in chocolate–was being produced, in part, by large numbers of children who were trapped in the worst forms of child labor in West Africa. An alarmed U.S. Congress decided to act.  First, it threatened to mandate labels on candy bars to help consumers purchase child-labor-free chocolate.

The chocolate industry fought hard to derail the labeling system. In its place, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) launched a multi-stakeholder initiative called the Harken-Engel Protocol. Eventually, it brought together the chocolate industry, the governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast (where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa was produced) and the U.S. Department of Labor to try to tackle the problem. Over the next decade, over $70 million would be spent to fix cocoa’s child labor problem.

Child cocoa workers in West Africa. Photo by Robin Romano.

Despite these efforts, a creeping sense that remediation strategies weren’t really working began to emerge. In 2015, Tulane University researchers issued a federally-funded report that said the number of children in child labor in West African cocoa numbered over two million and had not declined. One bright spot was noted: most children in Ghana were attending school but in Ghana and the Ivory Coast children continued to toil, often without pay, and continued to use machetes, carry heavy loads, and apply pesticides—things that made their work dangerous.

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