Farm lobbyists have blocked tighter restrictions on the work children may legally do, and efforts for closer monitoring have failed, Schick writes. The industry won a huge victory when the Obama administration stopped the Labor Department's plan to revise child labor rules written in 1974 and adopt in regulation a policy adopted by the second Bush administration more than 10 years ago. Most child labor in heavy agricultural states is largely hidden "because official data do not include underage workers," Schick reports. "Visits to fields and interviews with farmworkers indicate it is far more widespread than statistics show."
Schick continues: "Nearly everyone involved has an incentive to allow underage labor. Farmers need crops picked, farmworkers need money children bring home and advocates for workers risk alienating whole families if they broach the subject. The tenuous residency status of many Mexican-born workers also plays a role." Even though parents and farm owners say the jobs children do are relatively safe, but Schick reports that all children working on farms face "significant risks:" Child farmworkers suffer fatal injuries four times as often as in other industries, extreme heat, repetitive strain and exposure to toxic substances can create chronic health problems. (Read more)