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46 Groups Ask Congressional Appropriators to Fully Fund USDOL’s Child Labor Program

May 3, 2016

[This letter in support of ILAB funding was recently sent to appropriators Senator Roy Blunt and Senator Patty Murray, and Representatives Tom Cole and Rosa DeLauro on behalf of 46 organizations, representing tens of millions of Americans].

Dear Chairs and Ranking Members:

As the undersigned members of the NGO community and anti-child labor advocates, we write to urge you to ensure critical funding to end child labor and forced labor around the world.

Two 13 year old boys digging for gold in a mine in Mbeya region, Tanzania. (c) 2013

Two 13 year old boys digging for gold in a mine in Mbeya region, Tanzania. (c) 2013

 

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) at the U.S. Department of Labor has worked for 20 years to reduce exploitative child labor, combat forced labor, and provide technical assistance to address worker rights in countries with which the United States has trade agreements or preference programs.

As you determine funding levels for Fiscal Year 2017, we ask that you restore ILAB’s child labor grant funding to $58.8 million (fiscal year 2015 levels) to ensure that ILAB’s critical work towards ending exploitative child labor continues. In addition, we ask that you approve $10 million for programs that address worker rights issues through technical assistance in countries with which the United States has free trade agreements or trade preference programs, and $9.5 million for program evaluation to continue the ensuring that ILAB’s work is grounded in the needs of vulnerable children and their families and that it continues to show results in prevention of child labor and labor rights violations.

Approximately 168 million children around the world are engaged in child labor and 85 million children perform hazardous work that threatens their health and development. Since 1995, ILAB has worked to build the capacity of governments and civil society to better address the various social and economic causes of child labor, and has provided direct services to almost 2 million vulnerable children and their families in over 90 countries. ILAB works with the public and private sectors to address child labor and forced labor, and promote fair and safe employment.

Through its holistic programming, ILAB works with international, government, and local actors to increase awareness, improve access to education, and develop economic opportunities for adults, allowing families to improve their livelihoods without relying on children for income to meet basic needs. Preventing and responding to child labor through such community-based approaches protects children from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence. Additionally, by identifying products made by forced labor and child labor and tracking the progress (or lack thereof) made by 125 countries to eliminate these practices, ILAB plays a critical role in driving advocacy to reduce these scourges.

Eliminating child labor is not only good for vulnerable children and families but it also supports U.S. businesses who are currently disadvantaged when they have to compete with businesses that cut costs by illegally employing children.

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CLC PRESS RELEASE: Congress narrowly avoids shutdown of programs targeting child labor

85 million children are currently in dangerous, dirty, and degrading jobs; $53 million saved in budget deal to ensure children are protected from exploitative labor 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—The Congressional budget package released today continues funding for programs to end child labor after the House and Senate voted to cut funding to the Department of Labor’s impactful and critical program in June 2015. The International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) directs the U.S. Government’s efforts to end forced labor and child labor around the world. Advocates for protecting children from child labor are thankful for Congressional leadership.

“We are glad to see Congress putting actual funds to support their stated commitment to end the exploitation and abuse of children in the worst forms of child labor. The ILAB funding supports programs to help end and prevent the exploitation of children, said Melysa Sperber, Director the Alliance to Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), “This bipartisan support is critical to keeping the U.S. as a global leader in ending the exploitation of men, women, and children in forced labor and exploitation.”

Currently 85 million children are in dangerous, dirty, and degrading jobs that prevent them from attending school, and are harmful to their physical, mental, and social development, known as hazardous child labor. Boys and girls work in many places including agriculture, mining, quarrying, fishing, factories, domestic work, and commercial sexual exploitation exposing them to harm. 5.5 million of these children are in forced labor.

“We are pleased that Congressional appropriators decided not to eliminate these highly effective child labor programs,” said Reid Maki, Director of Child Labor Advocacy for the National Consumers League and the coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, representing 35 organizations. “Since 2000, nearly 80 million children have been removed from child labor. Child labor numbers have been reduced by one-third. The Department of Labor’s programs helped bring about these dramatic results and eliminating these programs would have meant turning back the clock to a time when the US government did little to help children escape the shackles of child slavery and the worst forms of child labor. Instead, we look forward to continuing progress in reducing these scourges.”

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Child Labor Programs in Grave Danger

Despite great progress in reducing child labor, Congress is very close to cutting all of the Department of Labor’s funding for child labor grant programs. Both the House and Senate have proposed cuts in their budgets and advocates have responded loudly. Over the last 5 months advocates have sent emails to every Member of Congress telling them about the importance of these programs. We are now at a critical moment. Congress must agree on a budget before December 11th to avoid a government shutdown.

The next couple of weeks are critical for the U.S. fight to end child labor.

The final decisions around funding for the federal government for the coming year are being made right now and we need your voices more than ever in the fight to restore funding to protect children from harmful and exploitative child labor.  These decisions now rest with the highest levels of leadership in Congress and we need you to join us in contacting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in particular to let him know that we will not accept cuts to crucial programs that protect children.  What might take you just 30 seconds, could mean all the difference in the life of a child!

Please use the following script to contact Senator McConnell (202-224-3135) :

I’m calling Senator McConnell to express my concern that the final appropriations package might not include critical funding at the Department of Labor that protects children.  The International Labor Affairs Bureau is America’s largest program to prevent and respond to child labor and has helped protect 1.94 million children from the worst forms of child labor.… Read the rest

Action Needed: Help Us Save the Progress on Child Labor that Has Been Made

[An important blog from CLC-member World Vision. A call to action appears further below]:

Action needed: An update from Cambodia on the fight against child labor.

We want to say thank you to our advocates. In addition to making phone calls and having meetings, you have sent over 15,000 emails to members of Congress asking that funding be restored to the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) for programs that help fight child labor. We are down to the eleventh hour for these programs — we now need your help to thank the champions as well as help remind key decision makers that these types of cuts will not go unnoticed. 

You are the reason Congress is still talking about theses programs, the reason these cuts have not gone unheeded. Jessica Bousquette shares from her recent trip to Cambodia, where she saw the positive effects of ILAB programs to help prevent child labor first hand. Then we share the two things you can do — in less than two minutes — to continue the fight for these programs. Your two minutes could change the life of a child.

By Jessica Bousquette

Around the houses perched on stilts, green rice shoots swayed gently in the wind and cars raced up the dirt road.  We sat on a blue tarp in a community near Siem Reap, a tourist hotspot in Cambodia famous for the World Heritage site Angkor Wat. As a toddler waddled between adults, I sat with a community group of about a dozen women and one man as they recounted how their life and their family’s lives had changed a result of being a part of a savings group.

The group has been working together for over a year to increase their savings through mutual support and accountability. With the savings, the group has been able to provide loans to members to expand their home businesses and agricultural productivity. When a member has an emergency, like an unexpected hospital visit, they can receive an emergency loan. This not only transforms their families’ access to income and nutrition, but also protects their children from hazardous labor. Oftentimes around the world, children end up working to pay off debts that arise when families cannot financially handle unexpected emergencies.

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