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Entries in child labor (6)


End Child Labor in NC: A Public Service Announcement

Get involved: Learn more about legislation to end child labor
Video produced by: www.hawriverfilms.com

Agriculture is very dangerous for children. Children working on farms are more likely to die from work-related accidents, and face higher injury and illness rates than adult workers. Each year, over 100 youth die from farm-related injuries in the U.S., and many more are injured. Children who work in fields treated with pesticides are at greater risk of developing neurological and reproductive health problems, as well as cancer.

While industry likes to claim that these jobs help farmworker families, Carol Brooke, director of the Workers Rights Project at the NC Justice Center, said: “From the garment factories of New York to the coal mines of West Virginia, America decided a long time ago that child labor was not going to be the solution to bringing people out of poverty. It’s been 75 years, and we’ve never looked back. It’s long past time to close the loopholes and level the playing field for children working in our fields.”

Growing up working on the family farm is an important tradition that should be preserved, but employing young children in hazardous work should not be a tradition any longer. Child labor laws should be the same for every industry. All children in North Carolina deserve a safe, healthy and bright future.


Here's the 30-second version of this PSA:



Support Senate Bill 707: Family Farms/Child Labor Amendment

Bill Sponsors


Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the United States. Working with farm machinery, chemicals, livestock and other hazards create an environment that is particularly hazardous for children. While children make up only a tiny fraction of the agricultural work force, they account for 20% of all deaths on the job in agriculture. Under current laws, children are allowed to work as paid employees at agricultural operations beginning at age 10.  As an industry, agriculture is exempt from most child labor laws.    

Read the bill here.


  1. Remove the exemption for agriculture from child labor laws, in order to provide the same protections for children who work in agriculture as in all other industries.
  2. Preserve the exemption for children who are employed by their parent, or by a close family member.
Take Action
1. Contact the NC Commissioner of Labor and your legislator to ask them to support SB 707.
Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry
NC Department of Labor
To find your legislator, go to:
2. Ask the Senate Rules Committee Chair to let the bill be heard.
Sen. Tom Apodaca
(919) 733-5745
(Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania)
3. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper in favor of SB 707.
Download FAN’s letter to the editor toolkit: http://www.ncfan.org/write-to-your-newspaper.  If you do write a letter, please let us know at harvestofdignity@gmail.com.



Farmworker advocates “disappointed” labor commissioner is unwilling to take a stand against child labor

After a recent meeting, Farmworker Advocacy Network sends a strongly-worded letter to NC Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry

RALEIGH (April 5, 2012) – For the first time, North Carolina’s labor commissioner met with farmworker advocates this week. Unfortunately, the state agency tasked with protecting workers failed to send any signal against child labor in the North Carolina fields.

In a letter delivered today to North Carolina Department of Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, Farmworker Advocacy Network members said they were “disappointed” to hear that “the NC Department of Labor is currently unwilling to take a stand against the employment of children thirteen years of age or younger in agriculture.”

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has issued “Hazardous Order” revisions that would protect young farmworkers from dangerous work. North Carolina advocates urged Berry and her office to back these regulations.

“We look forward to hearing whether the Department will make a public statement in support of these important protections for child farmworkers.  We hope that, in light of this change in public policy, you will revisit the Department's position on the employment of children in agriculture.” 

In this week’s meeting, Berry told advocates that she “did not think it was appropriate to take action on this issue until Congress acted on immigration reform,” the letter says.

But many of the children who work in the fields in North Carolina are U.S. citizens, so while immigration reform is an important part of the solution, so are simple but common-sense child labor regulations.

The letter also calls it “frustrating” that the Department of Labor has no proposals to change its approach to migrant housing inspections, especially in light of a recent study of North Carolina farmworker housing that showed numerous violations.

“We urge you to revisit this issue and find innovative and efficient ways to use the Department's resources to improve migrant housing for those workers whose employers ignore the law your Department is charged with enforcing,” the letter says.

The letter also takes issue with Berry’s stated philosophy of withholding support from regulations that do not pass muster with business. Farmworker advocates are “greatly troubled by the philosophy of the Department, expressed both by you and members of your staff, that you are not willing to support new regulations to protect farmworkers in North Carolina without the consent of the Department of Agriculture, the Farm Bureau, the Agribusiness Council, and the commodity groups.” Workers, not employers or business, are those meant to be the constituency of the Department of Labor, the letter says.

The letter is signed by Carol Brooke of the NC Justice Center and Melinda Wiggins of Student Action with Farmworkers.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Carol Brooke, Director of the Workers’ Rights Project at the NC Justice Center, carol@ncjustice.org; (919) 856-2144; Melinda Wiggins, Student Action With Farmworkers, mwiggins@duke.edu, (919) 660-3616.


MEDIA RELEASE: Time running out to protect NC kids from child labor

Today’s committee meeting was the last scheduled chance for a bill protecting child farmworkers from dangerous work to be heard. Why won’t the NC Farm Bureau and Department of Labor support an up-or-down vote?

RALEIGH (June 7, 2011) – Today’s House Agriculture Committee meeting may have marked North Carolina’s last chance this legislative session to protect kids by ending the practice of child labor on North Carolina farms. 

But pressure from the NC Farm Bureau and Department of Labor prevented this common-sense legislation from reaching the floor for an up-or-down vote. Advocates say this is unfair to young farmworkers, who are already exempted from most basic health and safety regulations present in other industries. 

Meanwhile, as school lets out, thousands of North Carolina children are preparing for a long, hot summer tending crops in 90-plus degree conditions. 

“Child farmworkers deserve the same legal protections that child workers in every other industry have,” said Emily Drakage, executive director of the NC FIELD Coalition. “Young people want to work to help their families, and they deserve to do so with the same protections on farms that they would get working at McDonalds or at the mall.”

While children make up only a tiny fraction of the agricultural work force, they account for 20 percent of all deaths on the job in agriculture. 

As an industry, Agriculture is exempt from most child labor laws. Under current law, children are allowed to work as paid employees at agricultural operations beginning at age 10.  

The bill, HB 838, would remove the exemption for agriculture from child labor laws, in order to provide the same protections for children who work in agriculture as in all other industries. It would also preserve the exemption for children who work on their own family’s farm.

Despite extended negotiations with children’s advocates, farm interests and legislative leaders, entrenched powers seem intent on preventing the bill from coming to a vote before the legislative session’s crossover deadline. Negotiations broke down after the Farm Bureau took issue with protecting 13-year-olds.

Barring some special circumstance, today’s 1 p.m. meeting of the House Agriculture Committee was the last scheduled meeting where the bill to protect child farmworkers could be heard before the June 9 crossover deadline. 

“The Farm Bureau and Department of Labor need to let this bill move forward,” said Fawn Pattison, director of Toxic Free NC. “Kids in North Carolina should be able to stay in school without being subject to dangerous or exploitive working conditions – and we deserve an up-or-down vote on this bill so any lawmaker who supports dangerous child labor can be held accountable.”

Though the last scheduled committee meeting has passed, advocates for the bill hold out hope the bill will be heard, either during a special meeting or if the crossover deadline is extended. Harry Payne, Senior Counsel for Policy & Law with the NC Justice Center, said that there is still ample time for committee members to discuss this bill.

“In this session, we have seen 90-page bill with enormous consequences passed in less than five minutes. Surely we can find time to hear a bill that protects children from workplace dangers,” said Payne.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Fawn Pattison, executive director, Toxic Free NC, 919.833.5333, fawn@toxicfreenc.org; Emily Drakage, executive director of the NC FIELD Coalition, 919.749.3629; Jeff Shaw, director of communications, NC Justice Center, 503.551.3615, jeff@ncjustice.org.


End Child Labor. Make the Call.

A young blueberry picker in North Carolina in 2009. Source: Association of Farmworker Opportunity ProgramsWorking on the family farm has long been an important tradition in North Carolina, but the agricultural workplace has changed a lot since our child labor laws were written in the early 1900’s. Children shouldn’t have to risk their lives or their health for a summer job growing our food. Take action today to update our child labor laws for the 21st century!

Today, 20% of all farm deaths are children, even though children make up only about 8% of the agricultural work force. One reason for this terrible statistic: Children as young as 10 years old may be hired legally to work on a farm – the limit is 14 years old in all other occupations, even though farm work is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Pesticides, heat stress, heavy machinery, and safety equipment designed for adults are all among the factors that make farm work too dangerous for young children.

H 838, Protect Youth/Family Farm Employment:  Representative Jordan (R-Ashe, Watauga) has filed a bill to update North Carolina’s child labor laws so that agriculture is treated the same as all other industries, allowing children to begin working limited hours at age 14, and protecting them from working hazardous tasks until age 18. The bill would exempt children working on their own family’s farm.

Take Action - Rep. Jordan needs to hear from you!

Contact Rep. Jordan today and remind him that we support his effort to help end child labor. Farming has changed dramatically since our child labor laws were written nearly 100 years ago. It’s time to update our child labor laws to reflect reality. Youth deserve the opportunity to work, and they should do so in a safe environment protected under the same laws, whether they work serving our food, or helping to grow it.

The clock is running down on this legislative session, and the child labor bill deserves a hearing before it's too late.

Representative Jordan (R-Ashe, Watauga)
Office: 418C Legislative Office Building
Phone: 919-733-7727
Email: Jonathan.Jordan@ncleg.net