More than 150 Groups Urged U.S. to Implement Child Safety Rules for Agriculture But U.S. DOL Succumbs to Political Pressure from Farm Lobby and Withdraws Proposed Protections

[The CLC submitted the following letter to Secretary Solis, urging her to implement the first update of occupational child safety rules for agriculture in four decades. The letter was originally submitted in March with 105 signatories. This update had 156 organizational endorsements. Unfortunately, the Department of Labor withdrew the proposed rules in late April under strong pressure from the Farm Lobby .]

April 19, 2012

The Honorable Hilda L. Solis
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210

RE: Updates to the Agricultural Hazardous Occupations Orders as Proposed by the Department of Labor

Dear Secretary Solis:

The Child Labor Coalition represents millions of Americans, including teachers, workers, farmworkers, farmworker advocates, and human rights activists concerned about the safety, education, and welfare of children who work in agriculture. We understand the needs of our nation’s farmworker families and have seen the effects of agricultural work, especially on children. The Coalition, along with the organizations listed below, support the proposed changes to the agricultural hazardous orders and implore the Department to implement the changes as quickly as possible.

As many as 500,000 children and teenagers toil in agriculture, an industry consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous industries in America. Last year, 12 of the 16 children under age 16 who suffered fatal occupational injuries worked in crop production, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Just this past August, Oklahoma teens Tyler Zander and Bryce Gannon, both 17, each lost a leg in a grain auger accident. We can prevent these tragedies from happening to other children by implementing the proposed updates to the hazardous orders without delay. The rules won’t impair the rural way of life; they simply put the safety and well-being of children above corporate profit.

For agricultural workers 15 to 17, the risk of fatal injury is four times the risk for young workers in other workplaces, according to DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Furthermore, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that between 1995 and 2002, an estimated 907 youth died on American farms, well over 100 per year. Between 1992 and 2000, more than four in 10 work-related fatalities of young workers occurred on farms. Half of the fatalities in agriculture involved youth under age 15.

Agriculture uses more heavy machinery and more dangerous chemicals since the days when the U.S. child labor rules were established, yet there have been no updates to these policies in over 40 years. The DOL’s proposed rules will help protect tens of thousands of youth workers from life-threatening injuries. In the span of a decade, it will save dozens of lives.


Imperative that Regulations be Adopted without Further Delay
The proposed rules must be adopted as expeditiously as possible. The CLC and undersigned organizations request the DOL the rules be adopted within 30 days. The DOL has spent nearly a decade refining the proposed rules and wisely followed the recommendations of NIOSH, producing a body of rules, based upon the evidence of disproportionate injuries and deaths among children performing the tasks outlined in the rules. The proposed update both improves the safety of youth workers and passes the common sense tests most average Americans would apply. These health and safety rules for child laborers are reasonable and they will save lives.

As recent months have shown, delaying these rules further at this point will mean that youth working in farm work will be killed and maimed unnecessarily. The updates to the non-agricultural child labor rules took three years to be implemented after they were proposed. Given the extreme dangers posed to children by these types of agricultural work, a delay of this magnitude would have devastating consequences.

The safety of our children needs to be a priority, even over corporate interests. The improved hazardous orders will continue to protect family farms by allowing children to work on their parents’ farm without any restriction. Furthermore, children will still be allowed to perform most types of agricultural work – just not the jobs that have proven to be especially hazardous. The proposed rule would in no way prohibit a child from raising or caring for an animal in a non-employment situation through educational programs, such as Future Farmers of America and 4-H — even if the animal were housed on a working farm — as long as he or she is not “employed” to work with the animal.

We estimate the rules will save 50 to 100 lives of teen workers and countless injuries over the next decade. Delaying these common sense protections will certainly result in the needless deaths and permanent disability of numerous young farmworkers.


The following 156 groups, representing over 1,400 organizations and millions of Americans:

Hazardous Orders Endorsing Organizations
Company Name
9to5, National Association of Working Women
Action for Children North Carolina
Action LA Network
Agricultural Workers Alliance (Canada)
American Federation of Teachers
American Public Health Association
American Rights at Work
Americans for Immigrant Justice
Arkansas Interfaith Alliance
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
Avant-Garde Foster Family & Adoption Agency
Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers Union
Black Hills Special Services Cooperative
Bon Appetit Management Company
California Institute for Rural Studies
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
Capital Area Food Bank – DC/MD/VA
Casa Esperanza of Bound Brook, New Jersey
CATA-The Farmworkers Support Committee
Center for Employment and Training
Center for Latino Progress-CPRF
Centro Campesino
Change to Win
Child Labor Coalition
Children’s Alliance (Washington State)
CITA-Independent Farm Workers Center
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A.
Coalition for Justice
Coalition of Human Needs
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Coalition of Labor Union Women
Coalition to Abolish Slavery-CAST
Communications Workers of America
Community Action Partnership (Rep. 1,000 groups)
Community Council of Idaho
Community Health Partnership of Illinois
Covenant with North Carolina’s Children
Delaware Ecumenical Council on Children & Families
Dialogue on Diversity
Dominican Sisters-Grand Rapids
East Coast Migrant Head Start Project
Eastern Maine Development Corporation
Education Equals Making Coummunity Connections
El Pueblo
Equal Justice Center
Farmworker Advocacy Network of North Carolina
Farmworker Association of Florida
Farmworker Justice
Farmworker Pesticide Project
First Focus
Florida Non-Profit Housing
Florida State University College of Law
Food Chain Workers Alliance
Food Forward, Los Angeles
Galen Films
Greater Rochester Coalit’n for Immigration Justice
Green For All
Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, Yardley, PA
Healthy Child Health World
HELP-New Mexico
Hope Community Center
Hudson River Health Care
Human Rights Watch
Illinois Coalition for Community Services
Immigrant Worker Project of Ohio
Indiana Toxics Action
Insight Center for Community Economic Development
Interfaith Worker Justice
International Brotherhoods of the Teamsters
International Initiative to End Child Labor
International Labor Rights Forum
Jobs with Justice
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
Kentucky Equal Justice Center
La Fe Policy Research & Ed. Center of San Antonio
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
League of United Latin American Citizens
LUPE-La Union del Pueblo Entero
MAFO-Nat’l Partnership of Farmworker & Rural Org.s
Mass. Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health
Maui Economic Opportunity
Media Voices for Children
Migrant Clinicians Network
Migrant Legal Action Program
Migrant Support Services of Wayne County
Migrants in Action
Ministry of Caring, House of Joseph II
Minnesotans Standing Together to End Poverty
MIRA Coal.- Mass. Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy
Motivation Education and Training
N.Y. Greater Rochester Coal. /Immigration Justice
National Assoc. of State Directors of Migrant ED
National Center for Farmworker Health
National Consumers League
National Education Association
National Farm Worker Ministry
National Immigrant Solidarity Center
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association
Nat’l Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Com.s
Nat’l Assoc. of Social Workers (Maine Chapter)
Nature Fresh Farm
NCLR: National Council of La Raza
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
New Jersey Work Environment Council
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
New York Com. On Occupational Safety & Health
North Carolina Justice Center
OIC of Washington
Oregon Human Development Corporation
Partners for Community
PCUN-Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste
Polaris Project
Pride at Work
Public Citizen
Public Justice Center
Ramsay Merriam Fund
Robert F. Kennedy Center
Rocky Mountain SER
Root Cellar Grocery
Sacramento Occupational Advancement Resources
Sacramento/Yolo Mutual Housing Association
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
SER (Kansas)
Service Employees International Union-SEIU
Shine Global
Sin Fronteras Organizing Project
Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Justice Team
Social Justice Cncil of the Unit. Univers. N. Nev.
Student Action With Farmworkers
Swanton Berry Farms
Telamon Corporation
Tennessee Opportunity Programs
UFW Foundation
Un. Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries
United Farm Workers of America
United Food & Commercial Workers Union
United Migrant Opportunity Services-UMOS
United States Hispanic Leadership Institute
United Steelworkers
United Support & Memorial for Workplace Fatalities
Wayne Action for Racial Equality
West Virginia Univ. Injury Control Research Center
Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council
Worker Justice Center of New York
Yellabird Farm