New calls for child labor reforms

Cross-posted from the blog of the Farmworker Advocacy Network:

By Michael Durbin

Two excellent op-eds illustrate how misinformation is used to block sensible attempts at giving farmworking children the same protections as other children.

In the New York Times, Marjorie Elizabeth Woods writes in “Pitting Child Safety Against the Family Farm” about the Department of Labor’s ill-fated attempt to prevent children under age 16 from working in dangerous farm jobs. Swift, massive, and often wildly misinformed reaction from conservatives led the DOL not only to withdraw the proposal, but to promise “this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.” Woods goes on to highlight how the same tactics were used in the decades leading up to the 1938 passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

On CNN Opinion, Cristina Traina argues in “Obama, strengthen rules on child farm labor” that the president must not give up on these kids, the “least protected, underpaid work force in American labor… the go-to workers for farms looking to cut costs.” After recounting the recent death of a 15-year old crushed to death by heavy farm equipment he was operating, Traina also highlights the effectiveness of organizations like the American Farm Bureau at killing the DOL proposal.

Sadly, such attempts to distract from the real issues are now used to defeat sensible proposals on any number of issues facing our nation (think gun control). But this is no reason to give up. The FLSA did become law, after decades of opposition that must have seemed insurmountable to child labor advocates of the day, and lightning storms of misinformation shine a light on an obvious need: the dissemination of correct information.

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