Attacking Child Labor and Poverty through Education
At 12, Maria has already learned much about the harsh world of migrant farm labor in Idaho -
Working in the fields is difficult because one has to put up with the sun and the heat in the body, sweating, and you also suffer from hunger, thirst. One doesn’t eat well; you just eat a little to curb the hunger. Also, you suffer humiliation from the contractor or managers in charge of the group. And in cold seasons, you have to put up with the heat, just like the cold.
From Children At Work, Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
Agriculture, with exposure to farm machinery and pesticides, is one of the most dangerous jobs for teens and younger children – in the United States. With farm labor, we are still following the federal 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act and have not updated our federal labor laws to reflect the dramatic shift in agriculture and its dangers. Forget minimum working age, let alone minimum wage – these are not present in many aspects of agricultural work in the United States.
Child labor feeds the vicious cycle of poverty that pits the lack of decent wages for adults against educational opportunities for students. We can change that. That’s why NEA is working with organizations like the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Parent Association, to support college public policy interns who were migrant child laborers. We know that, by joining advocacy efforts with migrant families, we support public education success for students, thus impacting future employment opportunities and the economic well-being of families.
Internationally, child labor is physically and developmentally dangerous; it keeps children out of school, thus minimizing future choices for young people and their families. Globally, the UN’s International Labor Organization estimates that 152 million children work, with an additional 15 million children working as domestics – hauling firewood, cleaning, cooking and child care. These numbers threaten the attainment of the global 2015 goals that all children go to school. Education is a human right that is not – yet- fully realized. The National Education Association is tackling child labor and its connection to quality public education through Education International and the national Child Labor Coalition.
Take an hour with NEA’s resources in Spanish and English on June 12, as part of the Global Day Against Child Labor, to educate yourself and students about child labor and how you can be a part of the solution. Its all about a strong economic future for our students.