Photo: Child Farmworkers Not Protected
This week the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a press release announcing the Obama Administration would be withdrawing the proposed updates to protect children under the age of 16 who are hired on farms. The rules would have restricted farmworker children, aged 12 through 15, from performing work that data has shown to be especially dangerous.
“We are profoundly disappointed the Administration will not be pursuing the proposed protections for children employed in agriculture,” said David Strauss, Executive Director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP). “These were common sense protections that would have saved many children’s lives.”
The exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 protects the tradition of children working on their parents’ farm. In a factsheet released by the DOL, “Myth vs. Fact,” it was stated that these agricultural protections would only apply to those children involved in an employer/employee relationship. Despite this fact, in the press release issued by the DOL, it stated the withdrawal “was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms.”
The proposed rules that were issued in September, were strongly opposed by the agribusiness community. The Republic Report noted in an article last week that National Milk Producers Federation, just one segment of the farm lobby, spent $130,502 lobbying Congress against the child safety rules in the first three months of this year.
“Farm work for many children is not a vocation,” said Norma Flores Lopez, Director of the Children in the Fields Campaign at AFOP. “For the children of farmworkers, whose lives will continue to be put in jeopardy to harvest America’s food, this is not an educational experience to prepare them to own their own farm one day. They are left exposed and unprotected through this move to withdraw the safety rules for children employed in agriculture.”