That’s right, in the US, children as young as twelve can legally work in the fields. They can pick your berries and even drive a tractor. According to a US Department of Labor (DOL) report, tractor-related accidents are the leading cause of death for young farm workers.
Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about the children of growers, but children employed as farm workers.
To the dismay of many in agriculture, the DOL has proposed new rules that would begin improving safety for children in the fields--including a ban on children younger than 16 driving tractors.
Capitol Press (grower newspaper): Tighter child labor regs alarm ag.
Reuters: U.S. seeks to strengthen safety rules for child farm workers
"Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America," Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said in a statement. "Ensuring their welfare is a priority."
The Department of Labor said the proposals aimed to "bring parity between the rules for young workers employed in agricultural jobs and the more stringent rules that apply to those employed in nonagricultural workplaces."
Please help make these changes a reality. We know the growers and doing their best to flood the DOL with comments against these improvements in this broken system, We need to make sure the DOL hears from people like you too.
There’s a lot to be done to bring justice to our food production system. The report “Farmworker Inventory,”that UFW co-issued with Bon Appetit Management Company, documents many of the inequities in our current production system.
Excerpt: Few Labor Protections for Children and Youth Farmworkers: Children and youth working in agriculture (an estimated 300,000 to 800,000 are 18 or under) are excluded from many legal protections mandated in other employment sectors. For example, federal laws permit children as young as 12 to be hired to do farm work (with some limitations) and youth as young as 16 are permitted to do hazardous tasks restricted in other sectors. Some state child labor laws, such as those in California and Washington, have stronger protections and stricter limits on age and the number of hours minors can work per day/week, but again, enforcement of child labor laws is nearly nonexistent and there is little data available regarding employer compliance at either the federal or state levels.
The DOL’s proposed rules are a step in the right direction. Please join us in supporting these improvements and send your comment TODAY.