In 2008, approximately 2.3 million adolescents aged 15 to 17 years worked in the U.S. In terms of raw numbers, retail establishments, restaurants, and grocery stores are three of the largest employers of teen workers. Modest numbers of American youth have been found working illegally in dangerous industries like meat processing, and U.S. law allows minors working in agriculture to perform tasks known to be hazardous. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to accidents at work. In 2008, 34 workers under 18 died in the workplace.

The Child Labor Coalition’s letter to Wisconsin Gov. Evers, Urging Him to Veto Legislation that Would Weaken Existing Child Labor Laws

January 21, 2022

 

Dear Governor Evers:

 

The Child Labor Coalition (CLC) based in Washington, D.C., represents 38 groups who work to reduce child labor and the dangers of child work in the U.S. and abroad. We write with concern about legislation, SB 332, which just passed the Wisconsin Assembly yesterday. The legislation would weaken current Wisconsin child labor protections by lengthening the hours 14- and 15-year-old workers would be allowed to work—both on schools days and on non-school days.

The CLC fears that lengthening the hours of work will increase student fatigue and increase the likelihood of students dropping out.  Extending school hours makes it harder for kids to perform school work, participate in after-school activities, do homework, and get a good night’s sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than one quarter of high school students fall asleep in class now.

Driving to and from the job is one of the most common ways teen workers are injured or killed. Even if teen workers are being driven by older drivers, fellow co-workers, or parents after 11:00, their chances of dying in a car accident escalate with late hours of work. Drunk driving fatal accidents are four time more likely at night—the later the hour, the more likely the accident is to involve a drunk driver.

Currently, Wisconsin follows federal law and allows children to work from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm when school is in session (on days preceding school) and 7:00 am to 9:00 pm when school is out of session. The proposed new law would allow minors to work until 9:30 on school nights and to begin work at 6:00 am, lengthening the work day for teen workers by 3 hours and 30 minutes.  On non-school nights, the new law would allow minor workers to work between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm.

According to Business Insider, “The bill would keep in place federal rules limiting teens to three hours of work on a school day, eight hours on non-school days, and six days of work a week.”

Each year, 158,000 teens suffer work-related injuries—70,000 are hurt badly enough to have to go to the hospital. By increasing worker fatigue, we increase the likelihood of injury. Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and a former member of Congress, is a victim of a teen accident. While working in an Arby’s he suffered a cut from a meat slicer. The cut led to a severe infection and gangrene and part of the finger had to be amputated.

In 2006, health researchers Kristina M. Zierold, Ph.D., assistant professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and Henry A. Anderson, M.D., chief medical officer of the Wisconsin Division of Public Health surveyed teen workers in North Carolina and found significant health risks associated with work by minors—and night work presented additional dangers. “Based on our analysis, we surmise that working later hours may involve circumstances that place teens at greater risk for severe occupational injury,” Zierold explained. Late at night, when managers have gone home, “teens may be asked to perform more prohibited or hazardous tasks than when supervisors are present.”

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Keeping Teens Safe at Work — Tips for Parents, Employers, and Teens”

Tips for parents, employers, and teens:

While work plays an important role in the development of teenagers, teens and parents should carefully think about prospective jobs that teens are considering and assess possible workplace dangers that those jobs might possess.

Tips for teen workers

NCL urges teens to say “no” to jobs that involve:

  • Door-to-door sales, especially out of the youth’s neighborhood;
  • Long-distance traveling away from parental supervision;
  • Extensive driving or being driven;
  • Driving forklifts, tractors, and other potentially dangerous vehicles;
  • The use of dangerous machinery;
  • The use of chemicals;
  • Working in grain storage facilities; and
  • Work on ladders or work that involves heights where there is a risk of falling.

Know the legal limits
To protect young workers like you, state and federal laws limit the hours you can work and the kinds of work you can do. For state and federal child labor laws, visit Youth Rules.

Play it safe
Always follow safety training. Working safely and carefully may slow you down, but ignoring safe work procedures is a fast track to injury. There are hazards in every workplace and recognizing and dealing with them correctly may save your life.

Ask questions
Ask for workplace training—like how to deal with irate customers or how to perform a new task or use a new machine. Tell your supervisor, parent, or other adult if you feel threatened, harassed, or endangered at work.

Make sure the job fits
If you can only work certain days or hours, if you don’t want to work alone, or if there are certain tasks you don’t want to perform, make sure your employer understands and agrees before you accept the job.… Read the rest

What has happened to nurturing and protecting children?

The Child Labor Coalition is a non-partisan group that is concerned with the health and welfare of children in the U.S. and abroad. We were extremely critical of the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw proposed safety protections for children who work in agriculture—-known as “hazardous occupations orders.”

We try to call it as we see it and ignore politics. We love any politician who puts children first. But today, we are stunned by the numerous attacks on children by the Trump administration and left wondering what horror is next? 

Earlier this month, Customs and Border Patrol announced that it would stop education classes, legal aid, and even recreational activities for children at the border detention facilities housing immigrant children. Detained children have already been traumatized by their arduous journey to the U.S., their subsequent detention, and, in many cases, forced family separation. What Grinch would deny them schooling and playtime?

Reid Maki, Director of Child Labor Advocacy, National Consumers League and Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition.

Institutionalization and family separation constitute traumatic experiences that threaten the physical and mental health of children. The N.Y. Times reported on February 27th that the federal government had received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse of children in immigration facilities over four years, including an increase since the Trump administration began separating families. Shouldn’t we focus our energies on reuniting families and easing the psychological damage that has already been done—not penalizing children even further?

The decision to withhold education and recreation was just the latest salvo in what increasingly seems like a war against children by the Trump administration. We recently learned that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had decided to defund children’s health research centers around the U.S. For decades, the centers have brought together researchers and children’s health experts to reduce environmental health risks that children face.

The research centers helped expose the danger of the pesticide chlorpyrifos which damages the development of children’s brains and poses grave health risks to child farmworkers, adult farmworkers, and farmers. EPA had decided to ban the toxic pesticide under the Obama administration, but then reversed the ban under the Trump presidency.

The Trump administration also attempted to reverse an Obama administration ban on children applying pesticides as part of their job on farms. Does our agricultural economy need children to apply pesticides? No. Fortunately, after several months of pursuing the idea, the Trump administration seems to have given up—only to move on to the latest perverse idea.

Recently, the EPA and the Office of Management and Budget officials announced plans to change regulations concerning “agricultural exclusion zones” (AEZs). Under current rules, if a plane or aerator sprays pesticides on a field it must be at least 100 feet from workers in the fields; other applicators must be at least 25 feet from workers. Although not spelled out, everyone is assuming the changes will weaken or eliminate the AEZs–because the Trump administration never acts to increase protections for vulnerable populations.

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How many child workers die in the work place in the US each year?

In 2015 and 2016 we averaged 27 teen work deaths a year compared to 72.5 deaths in 1999 and 2000.

Data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries by year:

2016 = 30   (report)

2015 = 24   (report)

2014 = 22   (report)

2013 = 13   (report)

2012 = 29   (report)

2011 = 23    (report)

2010 = 34    (report)

2009 = 27   (report)

2008 = 34   (report)

2007 = 38   (report)

2006 = 33   (report)

2005 = 54   (report)

2004 = 38   (report)

2003 = 53   (report)

2002 = 41   (report)

2001 = 53   (report)

2000 = 73    (report)

1999 = 72    (report)

1998 = 65   (report)

1997 = 62   (report)

1996 = 70   (report)

1995 = 68   (report)

1994 = 67   (report)

1993 = 68   (report)

1992 = 68   (report)

 

You can also access archived data here.

 

 … Read the rest