Tell Congressional Leaders It’s Time to Protect Farmworker Children–Pass the CARE Act Now
Help us protect migrant children by contacting your member of Congress today and urging them to pass the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment:
Summary of the Children’s Act for
Responsible Employment (CARE Act)
Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act) on June 16, 2011. The CARE Act addresses the inequities faced by the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 children currently employed in agriculture in the U.S.
The CARE Act:
- Amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) by bringing the age and work hours standards for children working in agriculture up to the standards set under FLSA for all other forms of child labor.
There is currently a loophole that permits children working in agriculture to work longer hours, at a younger age, and in more hazardous conditions than children working in other jobs. The FLSA currently allows children as young as 12 years of age to work in agriculture, while children in non-agricultural work must be at least 14 years of age (often, they must be 16 or older), and are limited to 3 hours of work a day outside of school hours while school is in session.
Farmworker youth can work an unlimited number of hours, as long as those hours are outside of school time. The CARE Act would eliminate these loopholes and require children to be a minimum of 14 to work for wages in agriculture. The Secretary of Labor would determine if specific agricultural jobs are safe for 14- and 15-year-olds to perform—as is done with all other industries.
- Preserves the FLSA’s family farm exemption. Under the CARE Act, farmers’ children of any age would continue to be able to work for their parents on their own farms.
- Increases the civil monetary penalties for child labor violations from $11,000 to $15,000, with a minimum penalty of $500, and higher fines for repeat or willful violations. It also increases criminal penalties to a maximum of five years imprisonment.
These increased penalties will serve as a stronger deterrent for employers who consistently violate child labor laws.
- Strengthens provisions for pesticide exposure in agriculture to take into account additional risks posed to children. Requires the Worker Protection Standard for pesticides be included in the hazardous orders for minors by the Secretary of Labor.
Children working on farms are consistently exposed to hazardous pesticides. Children have a high skin to body weight ratio and are in a more rapid stage of development, which makes them more vulnerable than adults to pesticide exposure. This provision will protect children from more exposure to pesticides.
Why is the CARE Act Needed?
Health. Agriculture is consistently rated as one of the three most dangerous industries. According to NIOSH, between 1995 and 2002, 113 youth under the age of 20 died in farm-related injuries each year. The fatality rate for young workers in agricultural is six times the rate of any other industry, according to a 2008 report from U.S. DOL. In 2006, an estimated 23,000 children and adolescents were injured on farms. In addition, advocates worry about the long term impact of pesticides on farmworker youth.
Education. Migration and exhausting work contribute to astronomic dropout rates among farmworker kids. Farmworker advocates believe that two of every three dropout. In some migrant communities. The dropout rate is 80 percent.
Equity. Some advocates believe that there is a human rights and civil rights element to this issue. Children who work for wages harvesting crops are often Hispanic and have traditionally been minority youth. Is that one of the reasons Congress has failed to address these child labor disparities?