As I drive by the agricultural fields in Salinas Valley and near Hwy. 1, I do occasionally see children and teens working in the fields. When I was younger, I had friends who accompanied their parents to the fields to help them pick. And I was reminded of the situation when I taught at Gavilan College, and students wrote about working in the fields. So, no big surprise. But I wonder how many people driving by on their daily commute ever notice?
According to a 99-page report issued by Human Rights Watch in 2010, child workers lead dangerous lives:
Child farmworkers as young as 12 years old often work for hire for 10 or more hours a day, five to seven days a week, Human Rights Watch found. Some start working part-time at age 6 or 7. Children, like many adult farmworkers, typically earn far less than minimum wage, and their pay is often further cut because employers underreport hours and force them to spend their own money on tools, gloves, and drinking water that their employers should provide by law.
Agriculture is the most dangerous work open to children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Children risk pesticide poisoning, serious injury, and heat illness. They suffer fatalities at more than four times the rate of children working in other jobs. Some work without even the most basic protective gear, including shoes or gloves. Many told Human Rights Watch that their employers did not provide drinking water, hand-washing facilities, or toilets. Girls and women in these jobs are exceptionally vulnerable to sexual abuse.
To find out more and learn what you can do to help, check out the following links:
The Harvest / La Cosecha
* Eve Longoria on Producing The Harvest/La Cosecha
* Shine Global: dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of children worldwide.
* US Child Farmworkers Lead Dangerous Lives.
* “Labor Department Abandons Child Farmworkers” (Human Rights Watch, 2012)
* Agricultural Worker Health Study – Salinas Valley (2003) California Institute for Rural Studies