The U.S. Congress and indivual states have tried to tackle child labor problems through legislative remedies.

CLC News Release: Legislation to Protect Child Farmworkers in the US is Re-Introduced

Child Labor Coalition applauds the introduction of two congressional bills to reduce dangerous child labor in U.S. agriculture

For immediate release: June 13, 2017
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820,

Washington, DC—The Child Labor Coalition (CLC) and its 35 members applaud the re-introduction late yesterday of two congressional bills that would significantly reduce child labor in U.S. agriculture and largely equalize child labor laws for wage-earning children on farms with current rules for non-farm work.

In the U.S., many teens who work in tobacco fields wear plastic garbage bags to try to avoid nicotine poisoning. [Photo courtesy Human Rights Watch]

In the U.S., many teens who work in tobacco fields wear plastic garbage bags to try to avoid nicotine poisoning. [Photo courtesy Human Rights Watch]

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) re-introduced the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), which would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act, removing the exemptions that prevent the nation’s child labor laws from applying to children who work for wages on farms.

“A 12-year-old is not allowed to work in our air-conditioned office,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League and a co-chair of the CLC. “Yet, that same child is allowed to work unlimited hours, seven days a week on a farm, performing back-breaking work.”

CARE would also raise the age at which children laboring on farms can perform hazardous work from 16 to 18, which is the norm for all non-farm work. “We lose far too many children to work accidents on farms,” said CLC Coordinator Reid Maki. “This change is long overdue.”

“Child farmworkers work at far younger ages, for longer hours, and under more hazardous conditions than children are allowed to work in any other industry. It’s time to end this double standard in U.S. law and ensure they have the same protections as other working youth,” said CLC-member Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

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Needed: A Champion for Children

By Len Morris

Len Morris of Media Voices for Children

Len Morris of Media Voices for Children

If we are to have a government worthy of the America Jimmy Stewart described in his famous role as Senator Jefferson Smith, we’ll need champions in government that will protect those who are the weakest and most vulnerable among us – our children.

Today, hundreds of thousands of children work in America’s fields doing dangerous, unhealthy and adult work from sunrise to sunset…many under 14 years of age. They need a champion, one senator out of a hundred, who will step forward to protect them by introducing a law outlawing child labor in America’s fields, revising and repealing a law that’s been on the books since 1939, when America was a different place and American farms were small family affairs, not the corporate agribusiness of today.

The invisible children in our fields are victims of greed, racism and violated human liberties.

Greed is the driver, enabling companies to make huge profits at the expense of children’s health. Under current US law, child tobacco workers can be and are exposed to nicotine poisoning and the carcinogens of deadly pesticides. These kids’ human rights are violated with little notice or political consequence.

Yesenia, age 12, harvesting onions in South Texas (Photo courtesy of Robin Romano)

Yesenia, age 12, harvesting onions in South Texas (Photo courtesy of Robin Romano)

Meanwhile, politicians look the other way and pretend it’s not happening as they collect campaign contributions from those same companies. Senators and Representatives have somehow lost their voice when the constituent is a child who cannot vote.

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CLC and 57 Groups Urge Congress to Pass the “Children Don’t Belong in Tobacco Fields” Legislation Banning ChildLabor in US Tobacco

[Our  NGO letter supports legislation to ban child labor in US tobacco fields. There is both a Senate and a House version in the current Congress–HR 1848 and S 974]


April 16, 2015
Dear Senator/Representative:
We write to you as organizations representing millions of Americans, including teachers, healthcare professionals, workers, farmworkers, and advocates concerned about children’s safety. We are alarmed at reports that children are risking acute nicotine poisoning and other health and safety hazards in US tobacco fields. We urge you to co-sponsor the Children Don’t Belong in Tobacco Fields Act, which would prohibit children under the age of 18 from employment that brings them into direct contact with tobacco. This legislation would not affect children working on their family’s farm.

A study released last year by Human Rights Watch found that child tobacco workers on US farms are exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, extreme heat, and other dangers. Nearly three-quarters of the child tobacco workers they interviewed had experienced symptoms including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, skin rashes, and irritation to their eyes and mouths. Many of these symptoms are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, also known as Green Tobacco Sickness.
According to a new bulletin published by OSHA and NIOSH, children and adolescents who handle tobacco may be more sensitive to chemical exposures, more likely to suffer from green tobacco sickness, and may suffer more serious health effects than adults. Public health experts have found that nicotine exposure in adolescence can cause mood disorders and lasting deficits in cognition.… Read the rest

New Legislation Introduced to Protect US Children Working in Tobacco Fields –Please Call Your Member of Congress and Ask them to Support

Children Don’t Belong on Tobacco Farms Act

The Children Don’t Belong on Tobacco Farms Act (S.974/H.R.1848) would end the practice of children working on tobacco farms, where nicotine absorbed through the skin while handling tobacco plants can lead to nicotine poisoning.

The bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit children under the age of 18 from coming into direct contact with tobacco plants or dried tobacco leaves. U.S. law prohibits children under the age of 18 from buying cigarettes, but allows children as young as 12 to work in tobacco fields.

Nicotine Poisoning and Other Risks
Human Rights Watch published a 2014 report based on interviews with 140 children who worked on U.S. tobacco farms in 2012 and 2013. The majority of children were working for hire. Key findings include:
• Child tobacco workers began working at age 11 or 12, working 50-60 hours per week.
• Children experienced nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, and sleeplessness while working on tobacco farms.
• Children worked in hot conditions with jobs ranging from harvesting tobacco plants to applying toxic pesticides.
• Many pesticides used in tobacco production are known neurotoxins. Long-term effects include cancer, neurological deficits, and reproductive health problems.

Protections for Child Workers
The U.S. has no specific restrictions to protect children from nicotine poisoning or other risks associated with tobacco farming. In most jobs outside agriculture, children are not allowed to work before age 15. The Federal Youth Employment Laws in Farm Jobs set standards for child workers in agriculture, but it does not specifically address tobacco farms.… Read the rest