Contact: Robert Crumley
Telephone: (512) 296-1046
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AFOP Helps Al Jazeera America Investigate U.S. Child Labor in Agriculture
Fault Lines program highlights plight of farmworker children, features Director of Children in the Fields Campaign Norma Flores López
Washington, D.C. – Al Jazeera America’s Fault Lines program is broadcasting a comprehensive news report tonight at 9:30 p.m. EDT on the matter of children working in America’s fields.
“Agriculture is consistently ranked as one of the three most dangerous industries in the United States, in terms of injuries and fatalities recorded on the job—for children, it is the most dangerous,” said AFOP’s director of the Children in the Fields Campaign, Norma Flores López. “Yet, U.S. child labor laws allow boys and girls, as young as 12-years-old, to legally work in agriculture for an unlimited amount of hours outside of school.”
As a result of exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which governs child labor in America, farmworker children are permitted to use dangerous farm equipment and work in an environment that continually exposes them to pesticides, conditions deemed illegal in every other industry and that can lead to serious injury or even death. Farmworker youth are also excluded from the “hazardous work” protections imposed in all other industries, allowing children as young as 16 to operate heavy machinery and perform other dangerous functions that are strictly reserved for adults in every employment field except agriculture.
“Entrenched special interests and racial discrimination make it very difficult for us to be able to update these laws that haven’t been touched in decades,” López states.
AFOP Executive Director Daniel Sheehan added that, because of the difficult conditions in which these children labor and the constrained finances of their families, many the farmworker children are forced to interrupt their schooling to help their families make ends meet. “Without that schooling, these children too often drop out of school, before learning what they need to break the cycle of poverty that is their existence,” Sheehan said. “As a nation, we need for these kids to succeed.”
López accompanied the Al Jazeera television crew to Texas as it sought to interview farmworker children and their families, and to document the tremendous difficulties these children face in performing back-breaking work often in extreme heat. As a former child farmworker herself, López also provided on-camera insights into the life experiences of farmworker children.
About the Children in the Fields Campaign:
The Children in the Fields Campaign is a project of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide job training and services for America’s farmworkers. The campaign strives to improve the quality of life of migrant and seasonal farmworker children by advocating for enhanced educational opportunities and the elimination of discriminatory federal child labor laws in agriculture. For additional comment or interview from an AFOP expert, please contact Robert Crumley at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Crumley@AFOP.org.