PRESS RELEASE: Passage of House bill sends message that Congress does not care about child farmworker safety


For immediate release: July 27, 2012
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820,; Ed Walz, (202) 657-0685,

The First Focus Campaign for Children and the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) today expressed their grave concern over Wednesday’s passage of HR 4157 by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, passed by voice-vote and without proper hearings or approval through the normal committee process, would prohibit the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) from issuing occupational child safety rules for children working in agriculture—rules that were withdrawn by DOL earlier this year. As Congress debated HR 4157, the CLC weighed in with a letter urging members to vote against the legislation.

“At a time when the nation is reeling from a national tragedy and millions of Americans are struggling to survive in a depressed economy, the House of Representatives focused its limited time on passing legislation that bars already withdrawn regulations,” said Child Labor Co-Chair Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “When DOL withdrew these child safety rules in April, it said that it would not re-issue the proposed rules during the remainder of the Obama Administration. By passing HR 4157, the House is wasting resources on a non-issue and sending out a dangerous message: the House of Representatives does not care about the health and safety of children working in agriculture.”

“When the facts are crystal clear and children’s lives are on the line, Congress should put kids ahead of politics,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley. “The American people deserve better from Congress than snap decisions on life-and-death issues for kids with no substantive debate.”

“DOL’s proposed rules fell victim to a coordinated misinformation campaign by the Farm Lobby, which complained falsely that the child safety rules would ‘kill the family farm,” said Reid Maki, CLC coordinator. “The proposed rules would have exempted the sons and daughters of farmers who work on their parents’ farms. They would have implemented common-sense protections to save children from farm fatalities and the gruesome amputations and injuries that can occur on farms. The agriculture sector has a child fatality rate quadruple that of other sectors. 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.”

The CLC, whose 28 members represent consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights organizations, labor rights groups, child welfare advocates, and religious and women’s groups dedicated to improving teen worker safety and reducing exploitative child labor, notes that the occupational safety rules for children who work in agriculture have not been updated in more than four decades, throughout this period dangerous farm machinery has become more prevalent and pesticide use has risen dramatically.

“Nearly 100 kids are killed on farms each year,” said Norma Flores Lopez, a former child farmwmorker who heads the CLC’s Domestic Issues Committee and directs the Children in the Fields Campaign for the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. “We are especially concerned about the vulnerability of child migrant farm workers, who typically begin working legally in U.S. fields at the age of 12 and who are exposed to dangerous levels of pesticides and other substances, including nicotine. The proposed rules would have addressed these health concerns. Congress is turning its back on migrant children and leaving them exposed and unprotected.”


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, endorsed the child safety rules.


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 [].