CLC Calls for the End of the Worst Forms of Child Labor on World Day Against Child Labor (2009 Press Release)

Washington, DC–Today, June 12th, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), representing 22 organizations, including several of America’s largest labor unions, celebrates 2009 World Day Against Child Labor by urging consumers and the general public to take action against exploitative child labor.

“This week we also celebrate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 182, designed to eradicate the worst forms of child labor,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League and co-chair of the CLC. “Child labor rates have dropped during the last decade but much work remains to be done,” said Greenberg.

“The ILO estimates that today 218 million children are still working in conditions that deny them their rights to a proper childhood, threatens their education, and their well-being,” said fellow CLC Co-Chair Antonia Cortese, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which represents 1.4 million public service employees.

The CLC urges consumers and the public to support five actions that promise to reduce exploitative child labor here and abroad.

1) Pass legislation to protect children working in U.S. agriculture. “As many as 400,000 children, some younger than 12 years old, toil on U.S. farms each year to help support their struggling families,” said David Strauss, Executive Director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. “All too often, these children are exposed to dangerous pesticides, unsafe farm equipment, and the scorching sun. Farmworker children should not receive less protection from labor laws because they must work in agriculture—an industry that no longer deserves sweeping exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act, legislation that was enacted almost 70 years ago when our national economy was vastly different. We need comprehensive legislation that will change this inequity and protect all children regardless of occupation, race, and location.”

2) Pressure the country of Uzbekistan to end state-orchestrated child labor in cotton harvesting. Uzbekistan is the world’s third largest exporter of cotton and each year, when it comes time to harvest the crop, the Uzbek government closes its schools and forces children to perform dangerous and arduous harvesting work. According to the International Labor Rights Forum, between 1.4 and 2.6 million children are forced to pick cotton under strict harvesting quotas that often do not even permit days off. “The Uzbekistan government says that it needs time to phase out the practice. But there is no time to wait. Using children in the agricultural production of cotton must stop and it must stop now,” said AFT’s Cortese.

3) Ask companies using products from international sources to ensure that their suppliers respect core labor rights. Many U.S. companies use international suppliers that foster labor abuses, including child labor. In Liberia, for example, workers on rubber plantations owned by the Firestone tire company have negotiated important improvements in their working conditions through a union contract that will reduce the use of child labor on the plantations, but the company has not fully implemented these provisions. As a result, Firestone has weakened the workers’ collective bargaining rights and continues to use child labor as well as the unpaid work of women.  “All of the core labor rights are closely related and need to be fully implemented together in order to reduce child labor and ensure that workers’ rights are respected,” said Bama Athreya, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum.

4) Support efforts to enact an ILO convention aimed at protecting domestic workers around the world. Internationally, millions of children work as domestic laborers. According to Human Rights Watch, “most countries exclude domestic workers from protection under their labor laws, leaving domestic workers little remedy against exploitative work conditions.” Beatings, sexual exploitation, and work without pay are among the many abuses reported. An ILO convention aimed at stopping the abuse of domestic workers and mitigating the exploitation of children is an important step in efforts to protect children.

5) Pressure international financial institutions to increase their financial commitment to provide free education for all children. According to the Global March Against Child Labour, poverty and lack of resources prevent more than 70 million children from going to school. The global financial crisis has forced millions of children to leave school and threatens vital “Education for All” goals. The CLC joins the Global March in urging the International Monetary Fund to redeploy $15 billion in “Vulnerability Funds” to help hire and train teachers, bolster school attendance, and prevent children from dropping out of school in impoverished countries.

About the Child Labor Coalition

The Child Labor Coalition is a group of more than 20 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 [].

June 12, 2009

Contact: Reid Maki
National Consumers League