Exemptions to U.S. child labor law allow children in agriculture to work at 12—and sometimes younger—and these exemptions also allow teens to perform work known to be hazardous at 16 in agriculture when the same work can only be performed by adults.

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

Children Working in Terrifying Conditions in US Agriculture — New Research Shows Child Farmworkers Unprepared for Workplace Dangers

By Margaret Wurth

Senior Researcher, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Margaret Wurth, HRW

New research published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reinforces just how dangerous agricultural work is for children in the United States – and how unprepared most are for what they face in the fields.

More US child workers die in agriculture than in any other industry. Every day, 33 children are injured while working on US farms. And they receive frighteningly little safety training, making their work in demanding environments even more dangerous.

Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine interviewed 30 child farmworkers, ages 10 to 17, and published their findings in two articles that describe how children are pressured to work quickly, with little control over their hours or the nature of their work.

“Sofia,” a 17-year-old tobacco worker, in a tobacco field in North Carolina. She started working at 13, and she said her mother was the only one who taught her how to protect herself in the fields: “None of my bosses or contractors or crew leaders have ever told us anything about pesticides and how we can protect ourselves from them….When I worked with my mom, she would take care of me, and she would like always make sure I was okay.…Our bosses don’t give us anything except for our checks. That’s it.” © 2015 Benedict Evans for Human Rights Watch.

 

The children interviewed feared having their pay docked or being fired if they couldn’t keep up.

They received little – if any – safety training. One 14-year-old worker said: “When you’re chopping with the machete, they say, ‘Oh, be careful, like, to not hurt yourself,’ but that’s basically it.”

Children I’ve interviewed for Human Rights Watch investigations of child labor in US tobacco farming had similar experiences, working long hours in extreme heat with virtually no safety training.

One 15-year-old child worker told me his mom – also a farmworker – was hospitalized after being sprayed with pesticides, but even then, his employer never told him how protect himself: “He just said, ‘Be careful.’ That’s all.”

Read more

Why Won’t New York’s Governor Cuomo Ban the Nasty Pesticide Chlorpyrifos which Harms Children?

 

Something really curious is happening in New York State. In June, the New York Assembly passed a bill to ban the nasty pesticide chlorpyrifos that damages the development of children. That’s not the weird part. What’s surprising is that Governor Andrew Cuomo has not signed the bill, despite the fact that the NY Attorney General Letitia James joined five other attorneys general in suing the Trump administration’s federal Environmental Protection Agency because it overturned an Obama administration ban on the pesticide.

“Chlorpyrifos is extremely dangerous, especially to the health of our children,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Yet, the Trump Administration continues to ignore both the science and law, by allowing this toxic pesticide to contaminate food at unsafe levels. If the Trump EPA won’t do its job and protect the health and safety of New Yorkers, my office will take them to court and force them to fulfill their responsibilities.”

“The governor shouldn’t be striving to protect some of the people some of the time, but should protect all of the people all of the time.” — Reid Maki

The other states that joined the suit are Washington, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, and California—the latter is the country’s largest agricultural producer (measured by cash receipts) and has decided to remove chlorpyrifos from the market in 2020.

Studies have also linked chlorpyrifos to autism, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention deficit disorders and delayed motor development.
Nationally, home use was banned in 2001 because of its impact on children’s developing brains.… Read the rest