Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE) Bill Introduced

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Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE) Bill Introduced

Congresspersons Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA), Lynn Woolsey (CA) and Robert Wexler (FL) introduced June 12, 2007 the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE) bill in the 110th Congress. The proposed CARE Act addresses the inequities and harsh conditions faced by the estimated 500,000 children currently employed in agriculture in the US.

The major provisions of the bill include:

1. Amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The amendments proposed to the FLSA will bring the age and work hour standards for children working in agriculture up to the standards set under FLSA for all other children in other industries.

Currently, a double standard permits children working in agriculture to work longer hours, at a young age, and in more hazardous condtions than children working in other jobs. The current FLSA allows children as young as 12 years of age to work as hired workers in agriculture, while children in non-agricultural work must be at least 12 years of age (more often, they must be 16 years or older), and are limited to 3 hours of work a day outside of school hours while school is in session. Youth working in agriculture can work an unlimited number of hours, so long as those hours are outside of school. This means that a youth working in agriculture can work any number of hours before and after school while school is in session. This heavy work load results in 65% of children working in agriculture to drop out of school.

2. Preserves the FLSA’s family farm exemption. Under the CARE Act, farmers’ children of any age woruld continue to be able to work for their parents on their own farms.

3. Increases the civil monetary penalties for child labor violations from $10,000 to $50,000, with a minimum penalty of $500. It also increases criminal penalties to a maximum of five years imprisonment. The increased penalties will serve as a stronger deterrent for employers who consistently violate child labor laws. The penalties are consistent with Present Bush’s recommendations in his budget messages.

4. Requires greater data collection on the industries in which minors are employed, in particular agriculture. The data collection will include a record of the types of violations found and an annual report on child labor in the US.

The US Department of Labor (USDOL) currently does not collect data on the number of child laborers in the US, their occupations, or their lost-time injuries. The lack of data undermines the public’s ability to understand the maginitude and scope of the child labor problem in the US.

5. Strengthens provisions for pesticide exposure in agriculture to take into account the increased risks posed to children and women. It also requires increased reporting of pesticide use and violations.

Children working on farms are consistently exposed to hazardous pesticides. No reliable long-term tests have examined the consequences of cumulative exposure to agricultural pesticides for children. The Environmental Protection Agency’s existing standards for protections against pesticide exposure are based on 154 pound adult males, and fail to account for children and woment’s smaller sizes and physiological differences.

Contact your congressional representative today and let them know of your interest and support for the adoption of the CARE bill to protect children working in agriculture the same as all other children. Encourage your representative to co-sponsor the bill today.

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