A California Representative is pushing to strengthen labor protections for children working in agricultural jobs, congressional insiders say.
Late last year, the Labor Department proposed new regulations for agricultural child workers that would significantly revise long-standing labor laws. The new regulations would have prevented children under 16 from operating powered farm machinery like tractors and would have prevented children under 18 from working in dangerous environments (like grain silos).
The regulations, Labor officials said, were needed to reflect new technological and social realities of the twenty first century farm economy (current agricultural child labor regulations have not been updated since the 70s).
An outpouring of opposition from farmers, however, convinced Labor officials to abandon their reforms. This recent push by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard may signal a renewed fight over labor laws.
Roybal-Allard is reintroducing the Care Act, which would expand current child labor regulations that exist in most industries to the farm sector and would eliminate many of the agricultural exemptions that currently exist for farm workers.
“I was shocked. I really do believe that this is this country’s dirty little secrets,” Roybal-Allard said. “There are today, in this country, children that are working in deplorable conditions and are not equally protected under our child labor laws. And these are the children who work in agriculture. I want to change that.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer