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NCL: Grain Silos are Death Traps on Farms—Efforts to Protect Workers, Especially Teens, Must be Stepped Up

NATIONAL CONSUMERS LEAGUE PRESS STATEMENT

For immediate release: October 30, 2012
Contact: Reid Maki, (703) 801-3338, reidm@nclnet.org

The Oct. 28th New York Times story “Silos Loom As Death Traps on Farms” stands as a stark reminder that U.S. and state governments must do more to protect workers, toiling in dangerous workplaces. “The Times piece by reporter James Broder highlights several teen worker deaths and violent injuries suffered by teens in agricultural grain facilities,” said Sally Greenberg,  executive director of the National Consumers League (NCL) and a co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition, 28 organizations committed to protecting children from exploitative or dangerous work. “Unfortunately, last April, the Obama Administration, under intense pressure from the farm lobby, withdrew regulations that would have protected teens from the dangers associated with work in agriculture, including these very dangerous facilities. Under the proposed rules, teens would not have been allowed to work in them.”

Each year, the National Consumers League (NCL) publishes an extensive report, The Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens. “Agriculture is by far the most dangerous industry that large numbers of teens are allowed to work in,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s Director of Social Responsibility and Fair Labor Standards. “Nearly 100 kids are killed performing hazardous farm work each year. The reality is that agricultural work for teens is extremely dangerous and no job is more dangerous than working in a grain facility.”

In 2010, 51 adult and teen workers became engulfed in grain during accidents at grain facilities. Twenty-six workers died, including Wyatt Whitebread, 14, and Alex Pacas, 19, whose deaths were described in the Times article. In August 2011, Oklahoma teens Tyler Zander and Bryce Gannon, both 17, each lost a leg in a grain auger accident. This accident would have been prevented by the withdrawn safety rules. Since 2007, 14 teen boys have died in grain facility accidents.

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PRESS RELEASE: Passage of House bill sends message that Congress does not care about child farmworker safety

CHILD LABOR COALITION & FIRST FOCUS CAMPAIGN FOR CHILDREN PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release: July 27, 2012
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org; Ed Walz, (202) 657-0685, edw@firstfocus.net

The First Focus Campaign for Children and the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) today expressed their grave concern over Wednesday’s passage of HR 4157 by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, passed by voice-vote and without proper hearings or approval through the normal committee process, would prohibit the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) from issuing occupational child safety rules for children working in agriculture—rules that were withdrawn by DOL earlier this year. As Congress debated HR 4157, the CLC weighed in with a letter urging members to vote against the legislation.

“At a time when the nation is reeling from a national tragedy and millions of Americans are struggling to survive in a depressed economy, the House of Representatives focused its limited time on passing legislation that bars already withdrawn regulations,” said Child Labor Co-Chair Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “When DOL withdrew these child safety rules in April, it said that it would not re-issue the proposed rules during the remainder of the Obama Administration. By passing HR 4157, the House is wasting resources on a non-issue and sending out a dangerous message: the House of Representatives does not care about the health and safety of children working in agriculture.”

“When the facts are crystal clear and children’s lives are on the line, Congress should put kids ahead of politics,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley. “The American people deserve better from Congress than snap decisions on life-and-death issues for kids with no substantive debate.”

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Workplace Violence (Segment from NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens 2012 Report)

Restaurants and retail establishments also hold risks of workplace violence. According to 2010 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three of the 34 youth workers who died that year succumbed to assaults or violent acts. If you include 18- and 19-year-olds, 15 of the 90 workers between the ages of 16 and 19 who died at work in 2010 perished from violent acts.

• In April 2012, a 16-year-old, Mokbel Mohamed “Sam” Almujanhi, in Farmville, North Carolina was shot to death during the robbery of a convenience store. Almujanhi worked for his father who owned the store, where two other men were also murdered by the robbers.
• In January 2010, an Illinois teenager was beaten and sexually assaulted after being abducted from the sandwich shop where she worked alone at night. In some inner cities, young fast-food workers have reported routinely having to deal with gang members who come in to harass and rob them.
• In June 2011, 17-year-old pharmacy clerk Jennifer Meija was shot and killed alongside three other employees inside the Medford, New York pharmacy where she worked. Meija was just days from her high school graduation. Police reports said that the suspect in the shooting was trying to steal prescription drugs.

A 2009 survey conducted by Dr. Kimberly Rauscher of the Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill)—a member of the Child Labor Coalition—found that 10 percent of high school students surveyed had been physically attacked, another 10 percent had experienced sexual harassment, and one in four said they had been threatened while at work.… Read the rest