Groups Push for Child Farm Labor Reform

Despite the failure of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ efforts to reform agricultural child labor laws, human rights groups and labor organizations are still pressuring President Obama to tighten farm labor laws.

At the end of 2011, Secretary Solis announced a proposed push to reform agricultural child labor laws. These laws, which have not been updated or reformed for decades, were seen as too lax and not reflective of modern farm technology.

The proposed reforms would have significantly limited the ability of underage farm workers to work in dangerous environments. Children under 16, for example, would be prohibited from operating powered machinery and children under 18 would be prohibited from working in silos and with certain animal breeds.

Massive protest from the farm community convinced Obama and Solis to put aside the proposed changes. Despite the failure of these reforms, some labor and rights organizations are pushing to reintroduce major farm reforms.

According to Human Rights Watch child workers on farms routinely work more than 10 hours a day. US Department of Agriculture regulations allow some farm workers under 20 to be paid below minimum wage, and few child labor regulations apply to underage children in the farm sector.

Despite the latest push, it is unlikely that Obama or Solis will readdress child farm labor.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer