June 16, 2011
AFT Secretary-Treasurer Presses for Action Against Child Labor
Antonia Cortese Calls for End to Farm Work Practices That Keep Kids Out of School
WASHINGTON—A top official of the American Federation of Teachers called today for stronger measures to protect children in America and abroad from doing often dangerous agricultural work that limits their opportunity to get an education.
AFT Secretary-Treasurer Antonia Cortese joined Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and others to announce the introduction of legislation that would extend child labor protections such as minimum age rules and limits on working hours to children who work on American farms. Similar protections already apply to all other U.S. businesses and industries that hire workers younger than 18.
Cortese also was part of a delegation that met with new U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan George Krol to discuss efforts to end that country’s practice of taking children out of school for as long as two months every fall to harvest the nation’s cotton crop. Although Uzbekistan is one of the world’s largest cotton producers, some but not all apparel manufacturers have taken steps to avoid using Uzbek fiber in their products.
“Children need to spend their childhood getting an education that will prepare them for a better life and a chance for success in the 21st century economy,” Cortese said.
Roybal-Allard’s Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE) legislation would end the exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act for children employed in agriculture—except for young people working on farms owned by their families. Actress and activist Eva Longoria, who is the producer of a new film about children working as migrant farm laborers, also spoke at the news conference.
“Teachers support CARE because it will give children a better chance to complete a high school education,” Cortese said. “Kids’ focus should be on getting an education, not spending long hours in the fields.”
The two events were among many scheduled this week by advocates who want to stop abusive labor practices and expand protections for children. June 12 was designated World Day Against Child Labor to call attention to the more than 200 million children around the world who work in often dangerous jobs that threaten their health, safety and education. For more information and materials about child labor from the International Labor Organization, visit http://www.ilo.org/global/lang--en/index.htm.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.