National Consumers League

Remember Cesar Chavez with a call to Congress


By Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition Today, we celebrate the birth of legendary farmworker and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of impoverished migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Chavez began working in the fields at age 10 in 1937 when the Great Depression took his family's farm in Yuma, Arizona. Nearly a half century later in his Commonwealth Club Address of 1984, Chavez reminded Americans that child labor was still a problem in U.S. agriculture. Today, sadly, child labor in the fields is flourishing. Cesar Chavez attended 65 elementary schools as his family migrated to find work. He did not graduate high school. Overwhelmed by constant migration and exhaustion from arduous work, many migrant children drop out of school—half never graduate—and contribute to the generational poverty that has troubled the farmworker community for decades. We are asking our friends to call Congress today to express their concern about child farmworkers and support for the Children's Act for Responsible Employment, HR 3564. Our alert follows with a list of the current 78 congressional cosponsors attached. If your member of Congress is not on this list, we would very much appreciate your calling today. In the DC area, Rep. VanHollen, Rep. Holmes-Norton, and Rep. Edwards are not cosponsors yet. Call your Representative on Cesar Chavez Day March 31, 2010 to support the CARE Act (H.R. 3564) Hundreds of thousands of children work in agriculture throughout the United States. Child farmworkers as young as twelve often work 8-12 hour days under dangerous and grueling conditions. They risk pesticide poisoning, injuries, and suffer fatalities at five times the rate of children working in other jobs. As a result of their long hours, they drop out of school at alarming rates. Nationally, barely half graduate from high school. Although agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, child farmworkers are exempt from the legal protections granted to all other working children in the US. Please help us honor the legacy of civil rights leader and advocate for farmworkers Cesar Chavez on his birthday, Wednesday, March 31st by urging your Representative to sponsor the Children's Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), H.R. 3564. This important piece of legislation would adjust the age and work hours for children in agriculture to the same standards as other sectors, ensuring equal protection for all children. The bill would also preserve the family farm exemption to permit farmers to pass on work skills to their own children. Call Congress on Wednesday March 31st at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to the office of your representative. When the CARE Act is signed into law, children working on farms will have a chance to succeed in school and lead healthy and productive lives. Currently, 77 members of the House of Representatives have sponsored CARE, but we need additional sponsors to get the bill passed. Sample message: "My name is ____, and I'm calling from (town/city, state). I'm very concerned about child labor in U.S. agriculture. I am calling because I would like the representative to sponsor H.R. 3564, the Children's Act for Responsible Employment. I believe this bill is critical to protecting the safety, health and well-being of farmworker children and it deserves the Representative's support." We particularly encourage calls to Members of the House Education and Labor Committee who have not yet sponsored the bill. Please click here to see a list with contact information. Here is our list of the current co-sponsors: Rep. Abercrombie, Neil Rep. Baca, Joe Rep. Becerra, Xavier Rep. Berman, Howard Rep. Brown, Corrine Rep. Capps, Lois Rep. Capuano, Michael Rep. Cardoza, Dennis Rep. Chu, Judy Rep. Clarke, Yvette Rep. Clay, Wm. Lacy Rep. Cleaver, Emanuel Rep. Cohen, Steve Rep. Connolly, Gerald Rep. Conyers, John, Jr. Rep. Costa, Jim Rep. Cummings, Elijah Rep. Davis, Danny Rep. Delahunt, Bill Rep. DeLauro, Rosa Rep. Ellison, Keith Rep. Farr, Sam Rep. Fattah, Chaka Rep. Filner, Bob Rep. Garamendi, John Rep. Gonzalez, Charles Rep. Grayson, Alan Rep. Grijalva, Raul Rep. Gutierrez, Luis Rep. Hare, Phil Rep. Hastings, Alcee Rep. Hinchey, Maurice Rep. Hinojosa, Ruben Rep. Honda, Michael Rep. Jackson, Jesse Rep. Jackson-Lee, Sheila Rep. Johnson, Eddie B. Rep. Johnson, Henry Rep. Kaptur, Marcy Rep. Kilpatrick, Carolyn Rep. Kucinich, Dennis Rep. Lee, Barbara Rep. Levin, Sander Rep. Lewis, John Rep. Lynch, Stephen Rep. Maloney, Carolyn Rep. Matsui, Doris Rep. McDermott, Jim Rep. McGovern, James Rep. Michaud, Michael Rep. Moran, James Rep. Napolitano, Grace Rep. Olver, John Rep. Ortiz, Solomon Rep. Pallone, Frank, Jr. Rep. Pastor, Ed Rep. Payne, Donald Rep. Pierluisi, Pedro Rep. Rangel, Charles Rep. Reyes, Silvestre Rep. Richardson, Laura Rep. Roybal-Allard* Rep. Rodriguez, Ciro Rep. Rush, Bobby Rep. Gregorio K. Sablan Rep. Salazar, John Rep. Sanchez, Linda Rep. Sanchez, Loretta Rep. Schakowsky, Janice Rep. Schiff, Adam Rep. Scott, Robert Rep. Serrano, Jose Rep. Sires, Albio Rep. Thompson, Bennie Rep. Velazquez, Nydia Rep. Waters, Maxine Rep. Watson, Diane Rep. Waxman, Henry Rep. Woolsey, Lynn