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.

Agriprocessors Trial: Underage Workers Describe BRUTAL Working Conditions At Iowa Plant

MICHAEL J. CRUMB | 05/10/10 06:59 PM |

WATERLOO, Iowa — A former underage worker cried Monday while testifying she was exposed to harsh chemicals at an Iowa slaughterhouse where she and other teens worked 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Yesenia Cordero Mendoza, now 18, was one of two former underage workers to testify against former manager Sholom Rubashkin, who faces 83 child labor violation charges stemming from a May 2008 raid at the plant in which 389 illegal immigrants, including 31 children, were detained. It’s the second trial for Rubashkin, who awaits sentencing in a separate federal financial fraud case that followed the raid at the former Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville.

Mendoza began crying while testifying about the raid and the arrest of her boyfriend and other workers.

“I don’t want to remember it,” she told prosecutors through a translator.

She testified she was 15 when she used false documents to get hired at the slaughterhouse. It was common knowledge that the plant hired minors, so she forged documents that gave her age as older, and plant officials never asked for any other identification to verify it, she said. When government inspectors came to the plant, underage workers were sent home, she said.

Mendoza and Rony Ordonez Capir, who was 16 when hired, said the work involved harsh chemicals that burned their eyes, hands and throats.

Ordonez said he cut meat using hooks and knives and washed down conveyor belts with bleach and chlorine. Mendoza testified she measured the temperature of meat packaged with dry ice.… Read the rest

Group works to reform labor laws for migrant children

By Naxiely Lopez
Article published on November 17, 2010
[From The Monitor, a South Texas newspaper. Got to the newspaper article by clicking here.]

SAN JUAN — It’s been almost half a century since migrant activist César Chávez began fighting for farmworkers’ rights.

And today, the battle is not over, especially when it comes to child labor laws, said Norma Flores Lopez, director of the national Children in the Fields campaign.

Launched in 1997 and funded by the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), the Children in the Fields campaign seeks to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act — a federal law enacted in 1938 that allows children as young as 10 years old to work 30 hours a week or more in the fields, Lopez said.

The 25-year-old San Juan native now heads the initiative in Washington, D.C. She began working in the Iowa fields in the third grade.

“I never really put much thought to it when I was a kid,” Lopez said about working as a child. “To me it was a way of life and I thought every kid went through this. It never occurred to me that my life was very different from other kids. I just knew that I would come late (to school), we were living in poverty and I needed to help my parents.”

An estimated 400,000 children are currently employed in agriculture in the United States, according to the association, which advocates for migrants’ health and safety rights.

“Child labor law does not protect migrant seasonal workers, but it protects all other kids in all other industries,” said Noemi Ochoa, the AFOP Texas state coordinator.… Read the rest

The CLC Applauds the Introduction of the CARE Act Press Release

Sept. 16, 2009

Washington, D.C.—The Child Labor Coalition (CLC) applauds the introduction of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), H.R. 3564, introduced September 15th by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). The legislation would close loopholes that permit the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers to work for wages when they are only 12- and 13-years-old.

“Child farmworkers are exposed to many dangers—farm machinery, heat stroke, and pesticides among them—and perform back-breaking labor that is not fit for children,” said CLC co-chair Sally Greenberg, the executive director of the National Consumers League, a consumer advocacy organization that has worked to eliminate abusive child labor since its founding in 1899. “It’s time to level the playing field by closing these archaic loopholes and offering these children the same protections that all other American kids enjoy. We applaud Rep. Roybal-Allard’s leadership in introducing CARE.”

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