The Children in the Field Campaign is an effort to extend child labor protections to U.S. agriculture.
The campaign strives to improve the quality of life of migrant and seasonal farmworker children by advocating for enhanced educational opportunities and the elimination of discriminatory federal child labor laws in agriculture.

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

Migrant Farmworker Children Struggle to Hold On

By Vashti Kelly, Health and Safety Program Manager, Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

Photo courtesy of AFOP.

 

Children from Latino migrant farmworker families are some of the most educationally marginalized students in the United States. They experience significant stressors and risks directly related to the circumstances surrounding the migrant farmworker lifestyle, which are linked to maladjustment as well as lower academic engagement and success.

Migration alters the composition of the family dynamic in many different ways.  In each scenario, however, the children are negatively impacted by it- when they are left behind by parents; brought along by parents; or when they migrate alone, without parents or guardianship.  Additional stressors include social exclusion, which is defined by Duffy as the “inability to participate in economic, social, and cultural life, and in some characteristics, alienation and distance from mainstream society.”[1] For migrant farmworker children, social exclusion often manifests itself as prejudice and discrimination in the academic setting.

As a former teacher in a predominantly agricultural community, I can attest to the lack of assimilation among Latino farmworker children.  Being children, they are not always equipped with the tools to deal with their feelings, and so they manifest as disruptive behavior or failing grades.  Although we as adults tend to compartmentalize our lives, it’s not so simple for children, in particular farmworker children, who are shouldering additional burdens.  It is difficult to remain motivated and optimistic about your future when your constant is the impermanence of migrant life, leaving anxiety and stress as the constant reality.  All of this takes a toll on a child’s ability to focus on their schoolwork.

Read more

More US Child Workers Die in Agriculture Than in Any Other Industry

New US Government Report Highlights Dangers Caused by Weak Child Labor Laws

By Margaret Wurth

 

More than half of work-related deaths among children in the US occur in agriculture, according to a new US government report published this week. This happens despite the fact that farms employ less than six percent of child workers, highlighting the devastating consequences of weak laws and regulations that don’t properly protect child farmworkers.

The report was prepared by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) at the request of congressional representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard from California and Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut.

My colleagues and I have interviewed hundreds of child farmworkers in the US in recent years. They’ve told us harrowing stories of working long hours in extreme heat, using sharp tools and heavy machinery, and climbing to dangerous heights with nothing to protect them from falling. Many are exposed to toxic pesticides, and on tobacco farms, children face the added risk of being exposed to nicotine, a neurotoxin.

Under federal labor law, children at the age of 12 can legally work unlimited hours on farms of any size with parental permission, as long as they don’t miss school. There is no minimum age for children to work on small farms or family farms. By law, children working in agriculture can do jobs at age 16 that health and safety experts deem particularly hazardous. In all other sectors, workers must be 18 to do hazardous work.  

The report clearly shows that these gaps in laws designed to protect young workers leave child farmworkers vulnerable to serious injuries and death.… Read the rest