As a nation, we have turned our backs on some of America’s most vulnerable workers. Right here, in Kentucky and other tobacco-producing states, children as young as 7 years old are facing Third World conditions. Toiling in the hot sun, these child workers must don black plastic trash bags with holes poked for their head and arms to avoid contact with tobacco leaves. Without it, their skin absorbs nicotine — a lot of nicotine. On a humid day, when tobacco leaves are dripping with dew, a tobacco worker may be exposed to levels of nicotine equivalent to smoking three dozen cigarettes. Nearly a two-pack-a-day habit.
By Julie Duffy, Child Labor Coalition Intern
No one expected 18 year-old Sophie Nieto Munoz’s first overnight shift at the Pathmark grocery store in Old Bridge, New Jersey to be her last. Sadly, however, the recent high school graduate lost her life after being fatally shot by a co-worker suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Munoz’s tragic and deadly story of workplace violence is not as uncommon as you might think.
By Alesha Mitchell, Communications Intern
I knew about its existence in Africa, in Asia, and even some parts of Europe, but never have I heard of child labor right here in the United States. June 12 was World Day Against Child Labor, and the Child Labor Coalition in conjunction with The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, held a congressional briefing.
For several years, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL co-chairs with the American Federation of Teachers, has worked closely with the Cotton Campaign to reduce child labor and forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest. Uzbekistan, run by totalitarian dictator Islam Karimov, is the only country in the world where the central government has recently played a major role in causing large-scale forced child labor.
Imagine you are a child, age 13, 14, or 15. Gang members in your school are threatening to beat, kidnap, or kill you. They want money, but you are poor. They threaten to harm you and your family if you don’t pay them large sums of money. There is no way for you to obtain those sums. This is the situation faced by increasing numbers of teens living in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as gangs spread throughout their countries.
Grecia Balli began working in farm fields when she was 10 years old. At age 14, she decided to drop out of school because her life as a migrant farmworker caused her to switch schools frequently, making it difficult for her to keep up academically. By age 17 she no longer dreamed of becoming a police officer, which had been her goal. Her life revolved around farm work.
The safety of child workers on farms was dealt a harsh blow in April 19 when the Obama administration unexpectedly announced that it was withdrawing long-awaited occupational child safety rules for agriculture.
A teenager's first job is an important rite of passage for many, offering that first taste of adult responsibility; but young teenagers are not yet adults and need to be protected from the risks of dangerous work. Certain jobs and industries, especially farming and agriculture, pose unique safety concerns. Common sense dictates that young teens be protected from hazardous agricultural work, yet it’s this common sense reasoning that’s currently under attack.
These days, being a teenager isn’t easy. Teens’ overburdened schedules often include juggling afterschool activities, sports practice, and homework, which combined with working part time for extra spending money or to contribute to household expenses, leaves many teens feeling overworked, stressed, and stretched to the limit.