In Viewpoint, we bring your attention to what we feel are the most pressing issues of the day, as well as bringing you up to date with what is going on with the Child Labor Coalition.

Press Release: Child Labor Coalition Welcomes the Reintroduction of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety 2022 (CARE Act)

For immediate release: March 31, 2022
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820reidm@nclnet.org

Washington, D.C.—The Child Labor Coalition (CLC), representing 38 groups engaged in the fight against domestic and global child labor, applauds Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) for introducing the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE). The legislation, introduced on Cesar Chavez Day, would close long-standing loopholes that permit children in agriculture to work for wages when they are only age 12. The bill would also ban jobs on farms labeled “hazardous” by the U.S. Department of Labor if workers are under the age of 18. The children of farm owners, working on their parents’ farms, would not be impacted by the CARE Act.

 

“Today, I am re-introducing the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE Act) with my friend and co-lead Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva to protect the rights, safety, and future of [children who work on farms],” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, Thursday. 

 

“I’m proud to co-lead this important legislation with Rep. Roybal-Allard to protect the children of farmworkers. Farmworkers remain some of the most exploited, underpaid, and unprotected laborers in our nation. They and their children deserve legal protections, better working conditions, and higher workplace standards to protect their health and safety. It’s past time we updated our antiquated labor laws to give children working in agriculture the same protections and rights provided to all kids in the workforce,” said Rep. Grijalva. 

 

“Children working for wages on farms are exposed to many hazards—farm machinery, heat stroke, and pesticides among them—and they perform back-breaking labor that no child should have to experience,” said CLC co-chair Sally Greenberg, the executive director of the National Consumers League, a consumer advocacy organization that has worked to eliminate abusive child labor since its founding in 1899.… Read the rest

201 Organizations Endorse Legislation (CARE Act) to Close Child Labor Loopholes that Endanger the Health, Safety and Educational Development of Farmworker Children

The Child Labor Coalition is reaching out for organizational endorsements of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety,  which would end exploitative child labor in U.S. agriculture. [The bill was introduced on Cesar Chavez Day, 3/31/2022 in the 117th Congress. We will post a bill number as soon as it is available.]

201 great national, regional, and state-based groups have endorsed this much-needed legislation.

We ask organizations to help us advance this vital legislation which would remove the exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act that allow children to work unlimited hours in agriculture at the age of 12; these exemptions also allow child farmworkers to perform hazardous work at the age of 16. A text of the bill can be found here.

The educational impact of child labor on U.S. farmworker children has been devastating. We estimate that two out of three children who work in the fields drop out of school.

The CLC’s press release explains why there is an urgent need to protect farmworker children and how the bill accomplishes this. Child farmworkers perform back-breaking work for long hours in excessive heat while they are exposed to pesticides and other dangerous agro-chemicals.

Organizations that wish to add their names to the list of endorsers, please email reidm@nclnet.org .

The 201 groups below have endorsed the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety between 2019 and 2022:

Action for Children North Carolina
AFL-CIO
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
Alliance for Justice 
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers 
American Medical Women’s Association
Amnesty International USA 
Arkansas Human Development Corporation
Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance 
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs 
Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) 
Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, & Grain Millers  International Union 
Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, & Grain Millers  International Union, Local 351 (NM)
Bank Information Center
Be Slavery Free
Beyond Borders
Beyond Pesticides
Bon Appétit Management Company 
California Human Development 
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation 
Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities
CATA – Farmworkers’ Support Committee  (NJ, PA, MD)
Causa (OR)
Center for Childhood & Youth Studies, Salem State University  (MA) 
Center for Human Rights of Children, Loyola University
Center for Progressive Reform
Central Valley Opportunity Center (California)
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante
Child Labor Coalition 
Child Welfare League of America
Children’s Advocacy Institute, Univ.
Read the rest

Experts: US High-Level Office for Children is Critical for Children’s Rights

Authors: Miriam Abaya, Nandita Bajaj, Warren Binford, Michelle Blake, Carter Dillard, James Dold, Hope Ferdowsian, Wendy Lazarus, Reid Maki, Shantel Meek, Jerry Milner, Jennifer Nagda, Vidya Kumar Ramanathan, Nevena Vuckovic Sahovic, and Jonathan Todres

 

In a recent series of workshops to address the lack of leadership for child rights in the United States, our participants identified the need for a high-level federal entity to oversee children’s issues.

The United States remains the only country in the world that has failed to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[1] Adopted 32 years ago, the CRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.

Currently, the United States falls short on various social and environmental determinants of child health and well-being, including poverty, health care access, nutrition, homelessness, and separation from family.[2] An analysis of the federal budget shows that children receive an inadequate share of government funds. For example, among the 37 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has the seventh highest child poverty rate and ranks second to last in family benefit spending.[3] Despite improvements in food security and housing stability for some children in the early 2000s, the COVID-19 pandemic and related recession have resulted in an increased number of children experiencing food and housing insecurity and declines in mental health while exacerbating long-standing racial, ethnic, and economic disparities.[4] Child uninsured rates increased for the first time in a decade, and Hispanic children, already nearly twice as likely as white children to be uninsured, have been disproportionately impacted.[5] Systemic racism and other forms of discrimination worsen outcomes for children of color.

Despite these troubling trends, we believe that it’s never too late for the United States to advance children’s rights and well-being at home and abroad. The workshops considered avenues to integrate the principles of the CRC across all our sectors, including health care, public health, immigration, child welfare, juvenile justice, early learning, education, labor, and family planning. One priority rose above the rest: the creation of a high-level authority dedicated to children.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has encouraged States parties to establish institutions with the authority to protect children’s rights, both as independent entities and as part of the government structure.[6] Many countries have high level leadership positions focused on children’s rights and well-being, from Ombuds to state departments.[7] These entities serve as advocates for children’s interests both within and independent of government, and research indicates they’re successful in making children more visible and central in policymaking.[8]

Accordingly, our workshop developed three options which would meet the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and promote children’s rights. The first option, the White House Office for Children, requires only the political will of the President, and so can be created quickly, bypassing congressional gridlock.

The second option is Cabinet leadership and/or a department for children. Creating a department for children would require legislation but solve a problem many at the workshops identified—children’s issues are buried within and siloed across many departments. With the exception of the Department of Education, federal offices dedicated to children typically are positioned at lower levels: the Children’s Bureau within Health and Human Services, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention within the Department of Justice, the Office on Children in Adversity within the Agency for International Development, and so on. This option could bring all these efforts together under one coordinated umbrella, finally giving children’s interests a literal seat at the executive decision-making table.

The third option is an Independent Children’s Commissioner, similar to positions in Australia, Ireland, Jamaica, and other countries, as well as independent commissions in the United States like the Civil Rights Commission.[9] It would oversee children’s interests in both the executive and legislative branches, assessing policy proposals for their impact on children and pursuing research on various areas of children’s rights and well-being. Importantly, this entity would be a bridge between children and policymakers—using surveys, consultations, advisory boards, and complaints mechanisms to hear directly from children and youth about their needs, hopes, and desires.

 

Children need resources and advocacy embedded in a dedicated federal authority to elevate their interests to the same level as other issues that have cabinet leadership and whole departments dedicated to them. These authorities would help mainstream consideration of children’s interests in policy, such as through a children’s agenda or child impact assessments. They would promote coordination across federal agencies and with Congress so that policies and programs intentionally and methodically address the comprehensive needs of children. Lastly and importantly, children would finally have a voice in decisions that impact them. These authorities could operationalize the CRC’s foundational principles: children’s best interests, respect for children’s views, non-discrimination, and children’s right to survival and development.

Policymakers need political will to create, fund, and staff a high-level authority. The government will need to implement other system changes to advance children’s rights and well-being, such as the creation of a children’s agenda, consistent and sufficient funding for children’s programs, and ongoing evaluations to ensure government policies, practices, and programs are in children’s best interests. Experts in child development, child advocates, caregivers and parents, and children and youth will need coordinated advocacy and unified messaging. The creation of a high-level federal authority would be an important first step and could jumpstart all the policies that must follow to make children’s rights and well-being a genuine priority.

Miriam Abaya, JD, Vice President for Immigration and Children’s Rights, First Focus on Children, Washington, DC, email: miriama@firstfocus.org.

Nandita Bajaj, MEd, Executive Director, Population Balance, Saint Paul, MN; Faculty, Institute for Humane Education/Antioch University, Surry, ME.

Warren Binford, JD, Professor of Pediatrics and W.H. Lea for Justice Endowed Chair in Pediatric Law, Ethics & Policy, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO.

Michelle Blake, MA, Director of Policy, Phoenix Zones Initiative, Albuquerque, NM.

Carter Dillard, JD, Policy Advisor, Fair Start Movement, Los Angeles, CA.

James Dold, CEO and Founder, Human Rights for Kids, Washington, DC.

Hope Ferdowsian, MD, MPH, FACP, FACPM, President and CEO, Phoenix Zones Initiative, Albuquerque, NM; Associate Professor of Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM; Medical Expert, Physicians for Human Rights, New York, NY.

Wendy Lazarus, Co-Founder and Director, Kids Impact Initiative, Los Angeles, CA.

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

Shantel Meek, PhD, Professor of Practice and Founding Director, Children’s Equity Project, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.

Jerry Milner, DSW, Director, Family Integrity & Justice Works, Santa Rosa Beach, FL.

Jennifer Nagda, JD, Policy Director, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, Washington, DC.

Vidya Kumar Ramanathan, MD, MPH, FAAP, Pediatrician and Medical Director, University of Michigan Asylum Collaborative, Ann Arbor, MI; Physician Expert, Physicians for Human Rights, New York, NY.

Nevena Vuckovic Sahovic, LLM, PhD, Professor of Law, CRC Committee member 2003-2009; President, Child Rights Centre, Belgrade, Serbia.

Jonathan Todres, JD, Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta, GA.

[This piece originally appeared in the Health and Human Rights Journal, March 10, 2022]

References

[1] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ratification status for the CRC-Convention on the Rights of the Child (Geneva: Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights). Available at https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/Treaty.aspx?Treaty=CRC&Lang=en.

[2] UNICEF, Worlds of influence: Understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries, (Florence: UNICEF, 2020), p. 10. Available at https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/Report-Card-16-Worlds-of-Influence-child-wellbeing.pdf.

[3] First Focus on Children, Children’s Budget 2020, First Focus on Children (Washington DC: First Focus on Children, 2020). Available at https://firstfocus.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ChildrensBudget2020.pdf.

[4] E. Robinson and K. Hamm, 5 ways the Trump Administration’s policies have harmed children (Washington, DC: Center for American Progress, October 2020). Available at https://www.americanprogress.org/article/5-ways-trump-administrations-policies-harmed-children/; US Department of Health and Human Services, US Surgeon General, Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory (2021). Available at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-youth-mental-health-advisory.pdf; Aubrey Edwards-Luce et al., Key stats on the effect of COVID-19 on children, (Washington, DC: First Focus on Children, November 19, 2020). Available at https://firstfocus.org/resources/key-stats-on-the-effect-of-covid-19-on-kids; UNICEF, Preventing a lost decade: Urgent action to reverse the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people, (New York: UNICEF, December 2021). Available at https://www.unicef.org/reports/unicef-75-preventing-a-lost-decade.

[5] J. Alker and A. Corcoran, Children’s uninsured rate rises by largest annual jump in more than a decade, (Washington, DC: Center for Children and Families, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, October 2020). Available at https://ccf.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/ACS-Uninsured-Kids-2020_10-06-edit-3.pdf; Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021, (Washington, DC). Available at https://www.childstats.gov/pdf/ac2021/ac_21.pdf.

[6] Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 5 (2003): General Measures of Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. No. CRC/GC/2003/5 (2003), para. 39, 65.

[7] Ibid. para. 39.

[8] UNICEF, Summary report: Study on the impact of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Florence: UNICEF, 2004). Available at https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/CRC_Impact_summaryreport.pdf. V. Sedletzki, Championing children’s rights: A global study of independent human rights institutions for children – summary report (Florence: UNICEF, October 2012). Available at https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/championing2_eng.pdf.

[9] Child Rights International Network, Global list of national human rights institutions specifically for children (London: Child Rights International Network). Available at https://archive.crin.org/en/library/publications/global-list-national-human-rights-institutions-specifically-children.html. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Our Mission (Washington, DC: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights). Available at https://www.usccr.gov/about/mission.

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Opinion: Child labor is on the rise; here’s how to prevent it

By Kunera Moore

Did you know that some of your favorite foods may be produced with child labor? The U.S. Labor Department, for example, named coffee as a product associated with child labor risk in 17 countries. This risk also remains widespread in cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate: more than 60% of it is grown in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where child labor remains widespread.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 635 million students are affected by full or partial school closures, UNICEF announced last week. And shuttered schools combined with frozen economies means more children are driven into the workforce, according to a recent report by UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank.

A staggering estimate of 160 million children worldwide are involved in child labor, according to a 2021 International Labour Organization report based on data collected before pandemic-induced school closures. This marks an 8.4 million increase since 2016.

Child cocoa workers in West Africa. Photo by Robin Romano.

Yet over the past 20 years, remarkable strides have been made to decrease the number of children involved in child labor worldwide. The Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating all forms of child labor by 2025 gained new momentum for this pressing challenge in 2021, the international year for the elimination of child labor.

We can’t afford to lose this momentum.

“Ensuring all children return to school and stay in school requires urgent investments in education, social security, and poverty reduction.”

 

Seventy percent of children in child labor are working in agriculture — work that can be dangerous and exhausting with long hours under the hot sun. The problem is particularly acute in the African continent. In Uganda, for instance, 22% of children ages 5 to 14 are involved in child labor and do not attend school. But the situation is also serious in a country such as Mexico, where 4% of children work and from that number, 30% work in agriculture.

Child labor must stop. But while banning child labor is commonly perceived as the silver bullet, it’s not enough.

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