Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Virginia House kills child farm labor ban; 26 percent of state's farm workers are immigrants

A bill in Virginia that would have prohibited farmers from hiring non-relatives under 18 to work in direct contact with tobacco leaves was shot down last week in a lopsided vote by a Republican-controlled House committee, Travis Fain reports for the Daily Press in Newport News. "Virginia already has extensive child labor laws, but there are exemptions for farming."

"The bill would have addressed reports that show nicotine poisoning and other problems in children who work on tobacco farms," Fain writes. "The nicotine leaches into their skin, activists testified, causing nausea and other problems. Sometimes children wear garbage bags to protect themselves from the leaves, which exacerbates concerns of over-heating in the hot sun.

Non-citizens account for 26 percent of all Virginia farm workers, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Markus Schmidt of the Richmond Time-Register in May 2014. Vilsack told him, “You got a situation where agriculture in Virginia depends on immigrant labor.” (Read more)

Human Rights Watch said in May 2014 that children, some as young as 7, are getting sick working in tobacco fields. The New York Times reported in September 2014 that teenagers, most of them immigrants, are being exposed to health dangers while working 12-hour shifts in tobacco fields.

No comments: