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Slave Labor? Kids as Young as 6 Found Working in Berry Fields

A Child Working the Fields

Children labor laws exist for a reason, so that young children aren’t taken advantage of and exploited. It’s common knowledge that kids should not be working, unless they have a part in a major motion picture or are modeling for Gymboree that is. But young ones should not, and I repeat not, be toiling in the fields.

There once was a time not that long ago -when children routinely did manual labor, working in factories, in the fields and slaving away. Child labor, after much struggle, was finally deemed illegal during the Great Depression. But apparently not everyone got the memo. Today children are still being exploited and forced to work.

And three strawberry farm in Southwest Washington were found to be in violation of federal laws by having children as young as six-years-old pick berries for them and for no pay! Labor officials reportedly discovered nine kids aged 6 to 11 working on the farms.  “The kind of work that kids are doing on commercial farms, I think, is fundamentally different than the kind of berry-picking people did as kids 50 years ago,” said a source. “We’re talking about kids who are picking 100 to 200 pounds of berries a day. In strawberries, that’s a lot of stooping and standing. They complain to us about backaches — their backs hurt when they sleep at night — and we see these horribly bruised knees.”  The three farms were fined a combined $73,050 for allegedly violating provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The children were working along adults, sometimes their parents or relatives. Some kids were made to work by their parents in order to pick more fruit since workers are often paid by how much they pick.

Although this may seem shocking,  this isn’t a new problem, and is evidently wide spread.

In a petition on the subject the Human Rights Watch wrote: “Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the United States, often working 10 or more hours a day. They are often exposed to dangerous pesticides, experience high rates of injury, and suffer fatalities at five times the rate of other working youth. Their long hours contribute to alarming drop-out rates. Government statistics show that barely half ever finish high school. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the second most dangerous occupation in the United States. However, current US child labor laws allow child farmworkers to work longer hours, at younger ages, and under more hazardous conditions than other working youths. While children in other sectors must be 12 to be employed and cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day, in agriculture children can work at age 12 for unlimited hours before and after school.”

Do you think there is anyway to control this problem and enforce the laws or is it just too widespread?

Image: ABC News

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