AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Campaigns to End Child Labor

Uzbek child picking cotton

Every day, 215 million children (nearly one-seventh of the world's youth population) are forced to work long hours for little or no compensation, often placing themselves in grave physical danger in the process. They mine coal, cut bricks and harvest crops, exposing themselves to dangerous fumes and chemicals. They weave carpets, deforming their spines as they crouch over looms. They even make fireworks, risking explosions that can leave them disfigured or dead.

In addition to forcing them to grow up prematurely and exposing them to dangerous conditions, child labor denies children the only thing that can give them a future with hopes and dreams: an education. Eliminating child labor and improving access to education go hand in hand. The AFT believes that every child in the world has the right to a high-quality, free, compulsory education. Such an education is not only a basic human right, but also a powerful tool for helping the poorest members of a society improve upon their socioeconomic position and participate in a vibrant democratic society.

Boy harvesting cocoa

AFT secretary-treasurer Lorretta Johnson co-chairs the Child Labor Coalition, an international network for the exchange of information about child labor. The AFT is an active member of this organization, which provides a forum and a unified voice on protecting working minors and ending child labor exploitation both in the United States and abroad. As part of that mission, the coalition develops informational and educational resources for both the public and private sectors to combat child labor abuses and promote progressive initiatives and legislation. Some of the campaigns on which AFT has been most active include cotton harvesting in Uzbekistan, rubber tapping in Liberia, and producing cocoa beans in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Take Action

Be a Responsible Consumer

Responsible Shopper informs consumers about companies that utilize child labor and maintains a list of consumer campaigns against these businesses.

At the Fair Trade Online Store, customers can select from a wide array of goods produced in a socially conscious manner (i.e., without the use of child labor).

Rugmark is a program that places special labels on Oriental rugs made without the use of child labor.

Make Your Voice Heard

Tell President Obama that the United States should ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which codifies basic rights for children, by signing this online petition.

Expand Your Knowledge

This compilation of lesson plans and classroom resources will help you inform yourself and your students about the problem of child labor.

You can learn about specific AFT campaigns against child labor by visiting the following links: