Norma Flores Lopez was 12 when she started working 10- to 12-hour days every weekday.
Because this terrible work was done on the farm, it was allowed. Children in the US can do unlimited farm work as long as they stay out of school and have parental permission.
Lopez told the U.S. House Education and Labor Protection Subcommittee during a remote hearing on child farm labor on Wednesday that her parents, who worked with her on the farm, did similar work when they were young children.
I was required to stay with adults in 100-degree weather, using dangerous and backward equipment, and I often pushed myself beyond my limits, said Lopez, the adult committee chairman of the current Child Labor Coalition, at the hearing.
“Essential things like bathrooms and clean drinking water were not always guaranteed, nor were there safety training or equipment,” she said. “These were everyday risks that were considered natural to the industry.”
“In other industries, children cannot normally work until they are at least 14 years old, and then they are taken for limited hours. However, there is no minimum age for children working on small or family farms.“
In other industries, children cannot normally work until they are at least 14 years old, and then they are taken for limited hours. However, there is no minimum age for children working on small or family farms, according to research and advocacy group Human Rights Watch. Children who work on farms can do hazardous work as young as 16, while workers in other sectors must be 18 before they can do these jobs.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Margaret Werth testified before the subcommittee on Wednesday that “workers up to the age of 18 can’t use meat cleavers, but 16-year-olds on farms can use power-based circular saws.”
According to Wart, such policies disproportionately affect Hispanic children, who are “the majority of employed child farm workers.”
There is no doubt that farming can be dangerous. In the year A 2018 study by the Government Accountability Office found that while work-related injuries to children appear to have decreased, more than half of work-related child deaths from 2003 to 2016 still occurred in agriculture, even though the field employs only a small percentage. Working children.
Labor protections for children on farms and child workers in any other industry have long been scrutinized.
Over the years, Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat from California, has introduced and reintroduced the Responsible Employment and Farm Safety, or CARE, Act, which would create age and work-hour standards for children in agriculture. It is the same with other industries. According to a 2019 statement from Roybal-Allard’s office, it would include a ban on farm work for 12- and 13-year-olds. Currently, exemptions for family farms and 4-H programs remain, according to this statement.
“‘My parents, who only had a primary school education and spoke no English, could not afford to support me and resources were not always available.’“
Representative Alma Adams, Democrat of North Carolina and chairwoman of the Workforce Protection Subcommittee, is a cosponsor of that bill. In Wednesday’s hearing, she said the country had “turned its back on child farmers”.
“As legislators, we have a responsibility to protect all child workers — no matter where they live — and make sure each one has the opportunity to achieve their dreams,” Adams said.
Still, Republicans on the panel said there are many benefits to children starting their careers on the farm, stressing that they believe employers want to keep their younger workers safe.
Rep. Fred Keller, Republican of Pennsylvania and ranking member of the subcommittee, said more serious risks to children include Democrats’ immigration policies, high inflation and increased government spending.
“When I was a little kid, I worked on a farm,” Keller said. “Farmers don’t want people to get hurt.”
Christy Boswell, an agricultural policy consultant at the law firm Alston & Bird and a senior advisor to Trump administration Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, testified that she, too, worked on farms as a child.
“We can all agree that it’s very important to ensure that everyone working in agriculture is safe,” Boswell said. “Farmers are committed to providing skills-appropriate jobs, while still giving young people invaluable hands-on experience.”
Boswell was critical that the CARE Act, as written, removed parental discretion and created an “arbitrary age limit” on when children could perform certain tasks without regard to the child’s experience and maturity level.
But Lopez said the work she did wasn’t good for her, nor could it be considered vocational training. It was something that her family participated in because they were poor.
“My parents, who only had an elementary education and spoke no English, could not afford to support me and resources were not always available,” Lopez said.
She added, “Through the great sacrifice of my family, I finished high school and finally got my master’s degree.” “However, most of the youth farm workers do not even finish high school. They quit four times faster than the national average. I’m not alone.”