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DR Congo: Hoping for a Brighter Future

By Christian Kilundu [from World Vision—A CLC member]

He was in primary school when he first met the rebels. They arrived and promised big salaries. The poverty and insecurity the children lived in could be escaped, they swore.

Of course, once inside the rebel group, life wasn’t as it was promised.

In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), rebels continue to recruit children into their fighting parties as a war continues to unfold against the country’s army. In the 15 years of fighting, an estimated 5 million people have been killed, and more than 1.7 million have fled the area.

Boys who are not yet teenagers have been lured into the rebel groups and are used to carry ammunition, food and other supplies before graduating to other activities.

Below, one child recounts his experience inside the rebel armies and his attempt to return to a normal childhood.

“I am Dragon Mike*, I am 17 years old and a former child soldier. Read more

Child Labor Coalition Announces Top 10 Child Labor Stories of 2011

List Points to Some of 2012’s Child Labor Priorities

Washington, DC—Advocates from the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), a group representing more than two dozen organizations concerned with protecting working youth, has released a list of the top ten child labor stories from 2011. The list represents international and American issues in child labor that received considerable attention in 2011 and what advocates hope is an increase in attention to exploitation faced by vulnerable child workers that has previously gone unnoticed by mainstream media.

“The year brought some much needed attention to serious child labor problems in the supply chains of some of the world’s largest companies,” said Reid Maki, Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition and the Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards for the National Consumers League (NCL). “However, we also saw a disturbing move in a few states to roll back long-standing child labor protections and a much-publicized attack on child labor laws by a presidential candidate.

The year’s 10 biggest stories, according to the CLC, included (in no particular order):

Apple acknowledges that child labor contributed to the making of iPhones and other electronic gadgets in its Chinese factories. In February, Apple announced that it had found 91 children worked at its suppliers in 2010—a nine-fold increase from the previous year. The company also acknowledged that 137 workers had been poisoned by the chemical, n-hexane, at a supplier’s manufacturing facility and that less than a third of the facilities it audited were complying with Apple’s code on working hours. In the year prior to December 2010, Apple had sales of over $65 billion.

Victoria’s hidden “secret”: children help harvest the cotton that goes into garments. Bloomberg Markets Magazine revealed in December that some of the cotton retail giant Victoria’s Secret uses is harvested by young children in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. The piece profiled 13-year-old Clarisse Kambire, who works on a cotton farm, where she said she is routinely beaten by the owner. By hand, Clarisse performs work that many farmers use a plow and oxen to perform and often works in 100-plus degree heat and eats just one meal a day. Some days she gets no food. Many of the children like Clarisse are considered “foster children” and receive no wages— most do not attend school. Limited Brand, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has annual sales in excess of $5 billion.

Read more

Rick Montgomery Kansas City Star Response

Rick Montgomery’s January 2nd  piece, “Proposed Changes to Child Labor Law Could Affect Life on the Farm,” fails to note that the proposed Department of Labor (DOL) protections could save 50-100 kids from dying on farms over the next decade, according to the estimates of the Child Labor Coalition.  Agriculture is the most dangerous industry in which large numbers of kids work, and the proposed regulations are long overdue, representing the first significant update of child labor safeguards for agriculture in 40 years. The protections are necessary because of widespread exemptions to child labor laws that agriculture enjoys and will continue to enjoy. The “parental exemption,” for example, will continue to exempt from coverage kids working on their parents’ farm. Children will still be allowed to work on farms at the age of 12 as long as the work task is not known to be especially hazardous by DOL. We would ask farm families, isn’t preventing 50-100 child deaths worth some minor inconveniences? This summer two 17-year-old boys lost their legs in a grain augur in Oklahoma. The proposed protections would apply some common sense protections and save thousands of teen workers from needless pain and suffering. Read more

New Child Labor Laws Expand Work Hours

[Waunakee Tribune]

Tyler Lamb
Regional Reporter

By Tyler Lamb

Regional Reporter

A provision inserted within Gov. Scott Walker’s biennium budget revised Wisconsin’s child labor laws July 1, effectively expanding the hours 16- and 17-year-olds can work.

The state’s child labor laws now mirror federal regulations, but is it a wise idea? Critics contend the change weakens labor laws and makes sure employers don’t have to pay a living wage.

Proponents challenge the measure will provide employers with the flexibility they need to stamp out the confusion between state and federal regulations.

Last month, a provision was placed into the governor’s budget bill by Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) without a public hearing. The measure was later approved along party lines by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Under the old rules, minors could not work more than 32 hours on partial school weeks; 26 hours during a full school week and no more than 50 hours during weeks with no classes.

The new law no longer limits either the daily or weekly hours, or the time of day minors may work. The measure also repealed a state law which prevented 16- and 17-year-olds from working more than six days a week. Teens of all ages are still banned from working during school hours. Read more