Over 100 children per year die in farm accidents -- Republicans kill regulations that would save lives -- therefore, GOTP guilty of murdering over 100 children per year
- From: Kickin' Ass and Takin' Names <PopUlist349@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 20 May 2012 21:38:50 -0400
Over 100 Children a Year Die Working On Farms: Why Do Prominent
Right-Wingers Fight Safety Regulations?
Mariya Strauss, AlterNet
May 13, 2012
Norma Flores López has a calm, musical voice that frequently bubbles
over with laughter, but she speaks with electrifying urgency when it
comes to the plight of kids who work in agriculture. She knows
firsthand about the brutal heat, dizzyingly high ladders, dangerous
equipment and lack of safety protections they face: Flores López spent
much of her teen years picking crops alongside her family as a migrant
"When I was asked to go up on a ladder to pick apples, I wasn't given
any safety training, any safety equipment, I was told just to go over
there and get that ladder," said Flores López, who now directs the
Children in the Fields campaign at the Association of Farmworker
Opportunity Programs (AFOP) in Washington, DC. Flores López, who went
on to earn a bachelor's degree, also serves as chair of the Domestic
Issues committee for the Child Labor Coalition. Helping to protect
farmworker kids is her vocation--but it's a particularly tough one
On April 26, the US Department of Labor announced that it was
scrapping what Flores López and other child farmworker advocates
thought was going to be "a natural process" of updating the safety
rules for kids working in agriculture. These rules had been proposed
without fanfare in September 2011 as a farm labor version of the
safety rules for kids in non-agricultural industries the Labor
Department put out in 2010.
Sally Greenberg, co-director of the National Consumer League?s Child
Labor Coalition, a network of organizations pushing to protect
children in the workplace, is still fuming at the Labor Department?s
decision to withdraw the rules. Calling it ?a devastating setback,?
Greenberg said, ?The forces of misinformation and distortion won out,"
and ?riled up a lot of people and got them very
frightened--falsely--about the impact of these rules." Greenberg is
referring to what a Labor Department spokesperson described as ?an
overwhelming number of comments on this, largely folks pushing back?
on the rules.
The comments came, Greenberg said, mainly from growers' groups like
the American Farm Bureau (a right-wing growers? association)
expressing fear that the new rules would be so hard to put into
practice that they would effectively keep farmers' kids from working
on their own parents' farms.
That was never a real threat, says Flores López, who adds that the
updates were intended to protect children and teens of migrant
farmworkers in rural communities who ?are out there out of necessity
and are pushing themselves harder than any child should, all out of
the need to help make ends meet.?
A May 11 Washington Post article about the political forces that led
to the rules being yanked confirms that the so-called ?parental
exemption? allowing kids of any age to work on their family?s own farm
would have remained intact under the new rules. The growers? groups?
main objection to the rules, then?which led to the intervention of
high-profile members of Congress like Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who
the same article suggests may be on Mitt Romney?s short list for
running mate?was based on false information.
In fact, said Mary E. Miller, child labor specialist for the
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, the rules would
have updated existing safety rules for kids working in agriculture
that have not seen an update since 1970. NIOSH, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention's workplace safety and health arm,
"came out with a fabulous report in 2002 with lots of updates for the
child labor regulations," said Miller. "A bunch had to do with
non-agricultural labor," she added, and those updated rules took
effect in July of 2010. So, Miller continued, "The next obvious item
was to update the agricultural child labor safety rules."
The existing safety rules allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work in
hazardous conditions in agriculture, but not in other industries. They
allow kids as young as 12 to work in the fields, picking crops like
tobacco, which can cause serious health problems. ?So we don't allow
them to buy cigarettes until they are 18, yet we allow them to work in
those fields as young as 12,? Flores López said.
The updates would have included preventing kids aged 12-17 from
working in hazardous conditions--like up on the high ladders Flores
López had to use--and with heavy equipment like tractors. Miller
explains that tractors "cause the most deaths for workers of all ages"
in agriculture. Yet, Miller said, she routinely sees kids aged 14 or
15 driving tractors after receiving "one single training course."
And kids do die while working in agriculture. "Between 1995 and 2002
there were an estimated 907 youth that died on American farms," said
Flores López, citing NIOSH's data. "That's well over 100 preventable
deaths each year." For young workers under the age of 16, agriculture
production accounted for almost 60 percent of deaths in this age
group, and 79 percent of all work-related deaths for youth ages 10 or
younger occurred in agriculture, according to a 2006 report in the
Journal of Agromedicine.
Many of these deaths occurred while the kids worked in some of the
hazardous environments the new rules would have made off-limits, said
Flores López. The updated rules would, among other things, ?keep kids
from working in manure pits, in grain silos,? said Flores López. Grain
silos are particularly deadly places to work for workers of all ages:
in one high-profile case from 2010, two youths, Wyatt Whitehead, 14,
and Alejandro Pacas, 19, were trapped and asphyxiated inside a grain
silo in Mount Carroll, IL. In another case in 2009, 17-year-old Cody
Rigsby died after being buried alive in a grain silo in Haswell, CO.
The proposed rule updates would have prohibited working in and around
grain silos at any time for youth under 16 on farms and for all youth
in commercial grain handling.
Why aren?t these deaths and grievous injuries causing much public
outcry? ?Farmworker kids are kept in the shadows and forgotten,? said
Greenberg, ?and nobody cares all that much about them.? Human Rights
Watch is one watchdog group that does care about them. It has put
together a comprehensive report on the subject, called Fields of
Peril, that documents the problem of kids under 17 working unsafely in
agriculture in the US. On May 7, nearly two weeks after the updated
rules were withdrawn, Human Rights Watch published a scathing op-ed in
The Hill that re-stated the problem in concrete terms:
?Nationwide,? it said, ?hundreds of thousands of kids this year will
cut the roots off onions, hoe cotton, climb tall ladders to pick
oranges and apples, and drive tractors. If the past is a guide, some
will be injured, some will be maimed, and some will die.?
In the absence of updated safety rules, Flores López and her fellow
advocates say they will have to fall back on their long-term strategy:
promoting best practices in child safety in agriculture, building a
grassroots movement to protect farmworker kids and working to get the
CARE Act passed.
CARE, or Children?s Act for Responsible Employment, would change and
update the regulations governing child labor in agriculture to make
them more closely match those governing child labor in all other
industries. Right now, explained Miller, child labor regulations for
agriculture are a jumble of outdated safety rules, enforcement, and
penalties for negligent growers and farmers. ?Historically, anyone can
see that the protections for kids in agriculture have lagged behind
the ones for non-agricultural [sectors],? she said.
The CARE Act, which features increased fines for child safety
violations, stronger safety rules and raised age minimums for working
in hazardous conditions and with heavy equipment, would ?help better
protect farmworker kids by making sure that all kids receive the same
protections whether they work in agriculture or not,? said Flores
?We need a groundswell? of support to help protect farmworker kids,
said Greenberg. ?We need parents whose kids have been injured and
killed to come forward and say this is not how children in America
should be treated and we should be taking every step possible to keep
Flores López agrees. ?We need for there to be more discussion and more
conversation around this issue,? she said, especially among consumers
buying food at the market. ?It's very difficult right now for us to be
able to trace whether food includes child labor--it's not part of the
American consciousness. People don't think to ask.?
The Labor Department spokesperson said the Department does intend to
work with ?those on both sides? to ?develop public education programs
that will hope to meet the initial objectives of ensuring the safety
of young people working in agriculture.?
As frustrating as the safety rules update setback was for Flores
López, she is not giving up on the process. ?We're going to continue
to find ways to work with the administration on ways to protect kids,?
she said. ?Our work is not done--as long as there are children out
there that continue to be put in a vulnerable position."
?I?m totally in favor of kids working,? said Miller, ?but it has to be
age-appropriate and well-supervised. It's about finding a balance?we
are the adults that have to look after the children. They have no
voice, they can't vote. We have to keep them from becoming an issue
related to political self-interest.?
-- end quote
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