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Despite decades of media attention and lawsuits, North Carolina agricultural interests continue to frequently subject migrant workers to the kind of treatment one would associate with barnyard animals. A new Wake Forest University study offers the latest outrageous news on this subject. Here’s a news release sent out by the Justice Center this morning:

Wake Forest University Study Finds Violations Rampant in Migrant Housing

Study reveals multiple housing law violations at every camp inspected; advocates urging NCDOL to increase inspections of farm worker housing

RALEIGH (March 30, 2012) – A newly released study from the Center for Worker Health at Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that migrant housing in North Carolina is plagued with Read More

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How old were you when you got your first paying job? For most of you the answer will be 16 or later. In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended to establish for the first time a minimum age for lawful employment in the United States.  That age was- and still is- 16. In those industries identified as particularly hazardous, such as mining, the minimum age is 18. But in agriculture, which ranks among the most hazardous industries, kids as young as 10 can be lawfully employed.  As an article in this week’s Independent Weekly explains, children working on North Carolina farms face all kinds of risks, including heat stress and pesticide exposure.

Last fall the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) proposed new rules  to protect children from dangerous work in agriculture.  This is the first update to the rules in 40 years. The proposed changes were based largely on recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Those rules would create 15 new Agricultural Hazardous Occupation Orders, or “Ag. H.O.s.”  Children under age 16 would not be allowed to work in the occupations designated as an “Ag. H.O.” unless it is on a farm owned and operated by their parents.  If adopted, the rules would, among other things: Read More

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North Carolina’s Farmworker Advocacy Network is promoting a fun new Valentine’s Day initiative in which it calls on caring North Carolinians to ask State Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry to “quit breaking our hearts.”

This is from the website:

“We want to tell Cherie Berry that she is “breaking our heart” this Valentine’s Day with her department’s responses that fall shockingly short of addressing the concerns about enforcement of farmworker protections raised by farmworker advocates. For example, Read More

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Hope folks will check out today’s edition of Setting the record straight, which shines a light on an amazingly ignorant and mean-spirited email from the office of the state Labor Commissioner, Cherie Berry.

In it, Berry’s spokeswoman tells an AP reporter that the detailed complaint filed by lawyers representing exploited farmworkers is “a political stunt to promote a leftist agenda.”

The agenda: providing adequate toilets to farmworkers.

Read the article by clicking here.

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The good folks at Toxic Free NC have a new, short (about six minutes) film out about two inexcusable phenomena that continue to plague the modern food industry in North Carolina: 1) the continued use of young children in one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations, and 2) the ongoing failure of state officials to enforce laws designed to protect farmworkers and their families from pesticide exposure.

The film is called “Overworked & Under Spray” and it’s worth a few minutes out of your day. There are no sensational revelations or tragic, tear-jerking moments; it’s just a group of average North Carolina kids talking about something that our state continues to allow to happen so that we can all save a few pennies on our sweet potatoes, cucumbers and cigarettes.    

Would that the state’s do-nothing Commissioner of Elevators would get off of her behind and maybe, for the first time in anyone’s memory, do something meaningful about a worker safety issue.