The 28 members of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) and the millions of Americans they represent warn that the Department of Labor’s recent withdrawal of occupational child safety rules for agriculture will needlessly endanger children who work for wages in agriculture.
“Agriculture is by far the most dangerous industry that large numbers of teens are allowed to work in,” said Sally Greenberg, Co-Chair of the Child Labor Coalition and the Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Nearly 100 kids are killed on farms each year. In 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 of the 16 children under age 16 who suffered fatal occupational injuries worked in crop production. For agricultural workers age 15 to 17, the risk of fatal injury is four times the risk for young workers in other workplaces. The Department of Labor’s sensible recommendations–based on years of research indicating the jobs in which teen injuries and deaths occur–sought to protect these hired farmworkers. Unfortunately, the proposed rules fell victim to misinformation and exaggeration from the farm lobby.”
“The U.S. Labor Department has caved in to Big Agriculture and its allies in Congress to abandon the most vulnerable working children in America,” said Zama Coursen-Neff,Deputy Children’s Rights Director at CLC member Human Rights Watch. “Instead of protecting child farmworkers, the Labor Department will look the other way when children get crushed, suffocated, and poisoned on the job.”
“We are profoundly disappointed the Administration will not be pursuing the proposed protections for children employed in agriculture,” said David Strauss, Executive Director of CLC member the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP). “These were common sense protections that would have saved many children’s lives.”
CLC members warn that the withdrawal will mean that one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations–migrant farmworker children–will continue to be exposed to farm dangers that other child workers do not face. “Farm work for many children is not a vocation,” said Norma Flores Lopez, Director of the Children in the Fields Campaign at AFOP. “The children of farmworkers will continue to be put in jeopardy to harvest America’s food. The rules withdrawal will leave them exposed and unprotected.”
“Children’s advocates expect better from national leaders than caving to political pressure from special interests and their lobbyists, when the facts are crystal clear and children’s lives are on the line,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley. “Members of Congress who are committed to putting children’s lives ahead of politics should overrule this decision by demanding legislation, like the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (H.R. 2234), that increases protections for children working on farms.”
“We owe it to our children to give them every opportunity to thrive, and to keep them out of harm’s way,” said Lorretta Johnson, Secretary Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers and Co-Chair of the CLC. “It is our responsibility to educate the whole child. This means looking after the wellbeing of our children in and out of the classroom. We can not afford to let political pressure keep us from fulfilling this responsibility.”
The CLC estimates that the withdrawal of hazardous work rules for agriculture will lead to the loss of 50 to 100 lives over the next decade. More than 150 advocacy groups, including numerous health and safety organizations, farmworker advocates, and labor unions, have endorsed the child safety rules (a list may be found at www.stopchildlabor.org).
About the Child Labor Coalition
The Child Labor Coalition is comprised of 28 organizations, representing consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. For more information, please call CLC Coordinator Reid Maki at (202) 207-2820 [firstname.lastname@example.org].