Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the United States. They often work 10 or more hours a day with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous pesticides, and die at 4 times the rate of other working youth. Farmworker children drop out of school in alarming numbers.
Exploitation, long hours for low pay:
Children can legally work on any farm at age 12, with their parents’ permission, and it's not uncommon to see children as young as 7 and 8 in the fields. During peak harvest season, the children work up to 14-hour days, and earn far less than minimum wage. There is no minimum age for children working on a small farm with parental permission.
Health and safety risks:
Agriculture is the most dangerous occupation open to children in the United States. Children work with sharp tools, heavy machinery, and dangerous chemicals, and die at four times the rate of other young workers. Yet they can legally do hazardous work in agriculture from which they would be banned by law in any other industry.
School and future:
Farmworker youth drop out of school at four times the national rate, according to government estimates—one third never graduate from high school.
US child labor laws fail to protect child farmworkers:
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows child farmworkers to work at younger ages, for far longer hours, and under more hazardous conditions than all other working youths.
THE CARE ACT
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act), HR 3564, would ensure that all working children are protected equally. It would:
• Apply the same age and hour requirements to children working in agriculture that already apply to all other working children, including raising the minimum age for hazardous work from 16 to 18;
• Preserve the family farm exception that excuses children working on their parents’ farms from the child labor law;
• Increase fines for child labor violations to $15,000 from $11,000;
• Strengthen provisions regarding children’s exposure to pesticides;
• Require better data collection from the Department of Labor.