Pages tagged "Safety"
Washington – The bipartisan children’s advocacy group First Focus Campaign for Children today endorsed legislation, sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Congressman David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), to prohibit child labor in tobacco-related corporate agriculture. The endorsement letter was also signed by more than 50 other children’s, health, and labor, and justice advocates.
“Senator Durbin and Congressman Cicilline get it,” said First Focus Campaign for Children president Bruce Lesley. “We don’t let kids consume tobacco products – we sure shouldn’t let kids risk their lives to produce them.”
The legislation responds to reports by Human Rights Watch that children have suffered injuries from sharp tools and heavy machinery on tobacco plantations, as well as illnesses associated with nicotine, pesticide, and other dangerous chemicals. The Campaign for Children urged a key congressional committee to hold hearings on child tobacco labor last year, but the committee did not act.
The United States Department of Labor reports that the 2011 farm fatality rate for all workers was more than seven times higher than the fatality rate for other industries. The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety reports that, in 2012, a child died in an agriculture industry incident once every three days, and about 38 children were injured in such incidents every day.
Though child labor laws protect children from most dangerous occupations, a Depression-era regulatory exception allows tobacco producers and other agriculture industries to employ children in dangerous work. In 2012, the Department of Labor scuttled a proposed regulatory reform that would have prohibited corporate farms from assigning children to the most dangerous forms of agribusiness labor. Family farms would have been covered by an exception to that rule. In an unusual move, the Labor Department’s announcement went beyond withdrawing the rule, committing the agency to not pursuing the regulatory reform for the duration of the Obama Administration.
“Congress should advance this important legislation, but reform shouldn’t end there. The Obama Administration made a commitment – but it was the wrong commitment, and we want them to reverse it.” said Lesley.
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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit campaignforchildren.org.
The First Focus Campaign for Children joined more than 50 state and national groups supporting the Children Don’t Belong on Tobacco Fields Act, a bill that bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to include in the definition of “particularly hazardous oppressive child labor” any employment in which children under the age of 18 come into direct contact with tobacco plants or dried tobacco leaves. This bill is an important step in protecting child farmworkers from the health risks posed by working in tobacco fields. This letter was organized by Human Rights Watch.
A pretty good indicator that U.S. laws protecting children are just not good enough is that tobacco companies voluntarily hold themselves to a higher standard. But just this week, Altria Group, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, announced it would prohibit growers for hiring child laborers under age 16, a new regulation that offers greater protections to children working on U.S. farms than existing U.S. labor laws.
The announcement comes just months after the release of a Human Rights Watch report, Tobacco’s Hidden Children, on tobacco child labor in the United States. Today in America, children as young as age 12 are allowed to work unlimited hours (outside of school) on tobacco farms. Like the 13-year-old profiled by the New York Times who works 12-hour shifts and sometimes has trouble breathing and getting access to water at work. These child laborers are exposed to nicotine, and nicotine poisoning, at levels similar to smokers, despite being too young to buy and consume tobacco. They also face extreme heat and pesticides. Most of the child laborers reported nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness.
Despite the danger, the U.S. Department of Labor has refused to toughen lax child labor laws after facing pressure from agribusiness lobbyists.
Altria’s new child labor standards will take effect in the beginning of 2015 and include parental consideration for children under age 18 working in tobacco farming, in addition to the ban on hiring children under age 16. It will not apply to children working on family farms. The rule replaces Atria’s current policy of deferring to U.S. labor law. The Eliminating Child Labor in Tobacco Growing Foundation, a tobacco industry trade group, has pledged to “progressively eliminate” child labor in the global supply chain, including a minimum age of 15 for child laborers.
First Focus Campaign for Children has worked with Human Rights Watch since the report’s release to advocate for stronger policies to protect children in the U.S. from hazardous child labor, including amending the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to improve the age and work hour standards of children working in agriculture, and strengthen provisions for pesticide exposure.
Bradenton Herald (Florida)
Nationwide, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there have been more than 2,700 calls regarding liquid nicotine exposure through Aug. 31 of this year – a pace double last year’s total. And the 1,351 cases reported last year represented a 300 percent increase from 2012. Nelson’s legislation has drawn the support of the American Academy of Otolaryngology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Respiratory Care, American Association of Poison Control Centers, American College of Cardiology, American College of Medical Toxicology, American College of Physicians, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Public Health Association, Arizona Consumers Council, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Boston Public Health Commission, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund, Chicago Consumer Coalition, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Federation of the Southeast, Consumers Union, EverThrive Illinois, First Focus Campaign for Children, Kids in Danger, March of Dimes, Minnesota Department of Health, National Association of County and City Health Officials, Ohio Public Health Association, Oncology Nursing Society, Partnership for Prevention, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG and Virginia Citizens Consumer Council.
On August 6th, the First Focus Campaign for Children sent this letter to Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) in to endorse HR 5237 which would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit children from working in tobacco-related agriculture, thereby protecting the health, safety, and overall well-being of child farmworkers.