The United States is failing to protect hundreds of thousands of children engaged in often grueling and dangerous farmwork. The current child labor law governing farmworkers was drafted in the 1930's when many more children worked on family farms, but that era is long gone.
Child farmworkers today risk their safety, health, and education on commercial farms across the United States. They are as young as 12 years old, and often work for hire for 10 or more hours a day, five to seven days a week.
Some start working part-time at age 6 or 7.
Children, like many adult farmworkers, typically earn far less than minimum wage, and their pay is often further cut because employers underreport hours and force them to spend their own money on tools, gloves, and drinking water that their employers should provide by law.
Agriculture is the most dangerous work open to children in the United States. Child farmworkers suffer fatalities at more than four times the rate of children working in other jobs. Some work without even the most basic protective gear, including shoes or gloves.
As a result of their long working hours, children who do agricultural work drop out of school at four times the national rate.
Join Human Rights Watch and call on the US Congress to amend the law governing child labor - the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - to protect child farmworkers.
I stand with Human Rights Watch in asking you to please better protect children working in agriculture in the United States.
As your constituent, I am writing ask you to help amend the law governing child labor - the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - to end discrimination against child farmworkers.
In other occupations, the law prohibits the employment of children under age 14, and limits children under 16 to three hours of work a day when school is in session. In agriculture, however, children can work on any farm at age 12, and at any age on a small farm.
Unlike for other jobs, the law sets no limit on how early in the morning, how late at night, or how many hours children can work in agriculture, as long as they do not work during school hours. In addition, the law allows 16 and 17-year-olds to work under hazardous conditions in agriculture; in all other occupations the minimum age for hazardous work is 18.
The current child labor law was drafted in the 1930's when many more children worked on family farms, but that era is long gone. It's time the US updated its antiquated child labor laws to give children who work for hire in agriculture the same protections as all other working children.
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