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Caving In

[ 100 ] April 27, 2012 |

And the Obama Administration caves on the child labor rule for farmers I discussed here.

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  • Meh, like I said in the other thread, this was basically throwing whatever they could think of at a non-problem (15 year olds working in agribusiness) while doing pretty much nothing about the real problem (making sure that elevators and other agribusiness entities are routinely observing proper safety rules). A 30 year old leg can get caught in an exposed auger shaft every bit as easily as a 16 year old one.

    • OK but on a similar line, while I’d rather have universal health insurance for all, it’s also a victory to allow children to remain under their parents insurance until they are 26 or whatever.

      • That doesn’t seem like a very strong analogy. It’s more like saying you want everyone to have universal access to dental care but, since you can’t do that, you’ll settle for giving everyone under 16 a free toothbrush.

        • I would say that free toothbrushes for all would be a positive step.

          • But you aren’t giving everyone a free toothbrush, only people under 16. (Actually, in effect, you’re really only giving a free toothbrush to 14 and 15 year olds). And even then, the exemption for family farms makes that pretty much useless too, since the vast majority of farm work being done by 14 and 15 year olds that I’ve ever encountered is done in those places (and going back to the original post again, since the teenagers in question in that instance were 17, this rule wouldn’t have done anything whatsoever to prevent that accident either).

    • Heron

      A 30 year old can die in a textile fire as easily as a 16 year old, too. The point of child labor laws isn’t primarily to improve workplace safety, though it does do that by removing age groups more prone to irresponsible, reckless behavior from the workplace. Their purpose is to to send a message that we, as a society, think letting kids work in dangerous fields is both a callous waste of potential, and a cynical thumbs-up to the abuse of private power. A 16 year old has much more of their life ahead of them than a 30 year old does, and your average 16 year old is much more likely to cave and do something stupidly dangerous because his employer or father tells him to than a 30 year old hired hand would be.

      That is the protection targeted bans of child labor provide; they ensure we loose fewer workers before their most productive years, they ensure young people at least get a chance at living life before they’re placed in dangerous, exploitative positions, and they prevent bosses from leveraging filial loyalty to extract stupidly dangerous labor from impressionable minds.

      • “your average 16 year old is much more likely to cave and do something stupidly dangerous because his employer or father tells him to than a 30 year old hired hand would be.”

        I strongly disagree with that assertion, but there’s obviously no way to prove it one way or the other.

        • Bill Murray

          even if people don’t change as they age, those that stupidly do dangerous things are more likely to die from that reducing the percentage as people age.

          • Well, maybe, but in my experience people who have been doing something (in agribusiness)longer tend to be quicker to dismiss the safety risks of something, assuming that nothing will go wrong because nothing ever does, whereas younger types tend to be a bit more nervous and cautious around things that could rip your arm off before you felt it (though obviously there are always the fearless types).

            I saw a 55 year old guy get out of his tractor and reach into the feed of a hay baler to tighten a bolt without even turning off the tractor once. 15 year old me would have never done that. Hell, I usually disengaged the PTO shaft entirely before I worked inside a baler in the field. Only took pushing a button and pulling, after all.

            • njorl

              The most exhaustive data we have about dangerous machinery operated by young people concerns driving automobiles. The fear of screwing around with machinery that can kill you vanishes incredibly fast. The maturity to treat that machinery with respect kicks in around age 25.

        • snoey

          I picked cucumbers, weeded potato fields, etc. for a local farm business when I was 15. I would not have done any number of the things I did (riding in trucks with dodgy brakes) (substituting for rope on a load of hay) had I a fully developed brain.

        • KeithOK

          There’s certainly a lot of research in brain development that would suggest that it is true as far as risk-taking is concerned. It’s not just a he says/she says issue.

          • In my experience, it’s a lot less a matter of risk taking and more about identifying risk.

        • Spud

          “your average 16 year old is much more likely to cave and do something stupidly dangerous …”
          I strongly disagree with that assertion, but there’s obviously no way to prove it one way or the other.

          Tell that to your auto insurance carrier and see what they think.

          The average 16 year old is considered an high risk to act irresponsibly with potentially lethal instrumentalities.

          • See above.

            • Spud

              You didn’t dispute what I said.

              Fact of the matter is, people in the business of identifying risk and assigning a monetary value to it, invariably have found 16 year olds to be more likely to be engaging in stupid junk which results in injury or death when handling potentially lethal instrumentalities.

              If it were not the case, teenagers would not automatically be assigned risk drivers nor would workers compensation insurance for those who hire teens be signficantly higher than those who do not.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Not old enough to drink, not old enough to vote.

    Old enough to get crippled by dangerous agricultural machinery.

    • Also old enough to die a nasty fiery death in a horrific car crash, so….yeah. Fun.

      • Heron

        Yup. So long as accident and coincidence exists, why even have any laws banning dangerous behavior at all? After all, laws banning murder don’t do anything to stop a kid from dying in a car crash either, so why have those?

        • I’m not sure what this is supposed to prove, exactly. That operating a car isn’t actually dangerous? I would submit that it’s far more dangerous than operating or working around most agricultural machinery. So if you don’t think 16 and 17 year olds need to be protected from potential serious injury or death by prohibiting them from operating a motor vehicle (as opposed to, say, legislating and enforcing rules regarding safe driving practices and regulating minimum safety standards on automobiles) I don’t very well see why you would extend the same logic to a much less risky activity.

          • rea

            Sigh. The classic, “If we can’t save everyone, we shouldn’t try to save anyone” line.

            • Why couldn’t you save them? It wouldn’t technically take much at all for states to increase the minimum age for getting a driver’s license to 18. Just need to pass a bill.

              What you mean is “no one would really support increasing the minimum driving age.” That’s a very different fact, and supports my point much more than it detracts from it.

            • Steve LaBonne

              Only trotted out by Brien when he has to try to defend an indefensible Obama action. I hope Plouffe or somebody is paying him well.

              • Except, as said above, this is decidedly not what I said since, obviously, you very much could change the legal driving age. But we can waive that dangerous activity off, even though it’s quite a bit more dangerous than sweeping out a grain bin.

                (And to point out the obvious, if there was genuine, or non-ignorant, concern for safety here, no one would be supporting the exemptions for “family farms.” A floor auger in your daddy’s grain bin cuts off legs every bit as easily as the auger at grain holding facility, probably even more easily, since an awful lot of those augers don’t even come with guards to affix to them. But go on, lecture me about common farm machinery, please.)

                • Except your daddy probably cares about your well-being and safety, in a way Monsanto perhaps does not.

                • So? All the caring in the world doesn’t very well keep an unnoticed untied shoe lace from getting caught in the drive of an exposed floor auger, does it? (Daddy is also a lot more likely to let to operate the heavy dangerous machinery unsupervised and without a partner than Monsanto too).

                • All the caring in the world doesn’t very well keep an unnoticed untied shoe lace from getting caught in the drive of an exposed floor auger, does it?

                  Well, actual care involves an awareness of safety concerns like that. My dad taught me to work on a sawmill, which is probably far more dangerous than farming, and he made damn sure I knew what parts not to go near.

                • Daddy also thinks you’ve got it easy relative to when he was a kid. Using a Bobcat to clean out the cattle pens? He had to spend three days doing that shit by hand with a cracked pitch fork sonny.

                • Well, yes, as my grandfather’s sawmill was in the mountains of Southern Utah, pre-electricity. But I’m not sure of the relevance of that.

                • “he made damn sure I knew what parts not to go near.”

                  But you can’t not go near a floor auger if you’re sweeping out a bin. I guess Daddy could put in a ton of effort and design his own safety guard to affix, but I never saw anyone do that. It was just assumed that a) you were smart enough not to do something bone headed and b) a freak accident wouldn’t happen.

                • Actually, on the last post, not even didn’t Loomis mention it, he actually feel for the sleight of hand of referring to a couple of 17 year olds who lost legs in an auger as generic “teenagers,” obscuring the fact that this oh-so-awesome rule wouldn’t have done anything to prevent that accident. I think that’s what irks me so much about it; rather than address the real and serious problems, they’re using sleight of hand language to try to bar people 15 and under from jobs that probably aren’t being done by very man 15 year olds then clapping their hands together and declaring the problem solved while the actual areas of concern continue on unaddressed.

                • Okay, and on a sawmill you can’t not go near a saw blade that has a diameter larger than you are. But you can be taught, very carefully and thoroughly, just exactly how to go near it. Or you can be handed a three-ring binder of safety instructions written by a company lawyer.

                • Well, to be fair, there’s probably a much more delicate way to go about working a sawmill than there is to avoiding stepping into a floor auger, which is pretty straight-forward: be careful around the fucking auger. That doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen, however, especially if the manufacturer doesn’t design the bin with a safety guard over the floor augers or any way to affix one to it.

                • Yes, accidents do happen. That’s why dad’s middle finger on his right hand was not the longest finger on his right hand. But I still think there is a world of difference between the care that will be taken by a parent compared to the care that will be taken by a corporation.

                • And, having been there, I don’t. Both because a lot of the little things you should really do to ensure safety (like requiring rubber boots worn over shoes so that strings won’t get caught in moving floor parts) don’t occur to people and because a lot of parents, grandparents, etc. take a distinct “one in a billion” approach to it. They might yell at you for doing something really stupid, and they aren’t going to fire you if you’re afraid to climb to the top of the bin and close a vent or something, but they’re also pretty likely to let you operate an auger or a very expensive piece of heavy machinery by yourself at 15 or younger, which is something that I can’t really imagine Monsanto ever doing. They might not care about you as a person, but they don’t very well want a 15 year old breaking a really expensive piece of machinery and shutting down production until it can be fixed/replaced now do they?

                • joe from Lowell

                  Mal,

                  Well, yes, as my grandfather’s sawmill was in the mountains of Southern Utah, pre-electricity.

                  Was it an actual, working hydro-power saw mill? Did it have a water wheel, or a turbine, or what?

                • Diesel engines. Everything hauled up what amounted to homemade roads up onto the Boulder Mountain. Some stuff hauled by trucks, most by horse and mule-drawn wagon.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Heh. I forget, in southern Utah, “pre-electricity” means, what, 1972?

                • Pre-electricity means pre-CCC, basically.

              • shill

                It is all about the money

          • Heron

            The point is that your argument against laws banning dangerous farm work for minors can be applied to any law.

            You respond to LWF by pointing out a child can die in a car crash as well as get maimed by farm machinery, implying that taking steps to prevent the later when the former can happen is somehow ridiculous. Well, that argument is pretty open-ended. If laws banning employers from knowing using child labor in dangerous positions are invalid so long as children can die in car accidents, then why are laws banning murder still valid? After all, they’re equally young enough to get stabbed as they are young enough to die in a car crash. Why are laws banning toxic-levels of pollution near population centers still valid? After all, a kid who can get his liver turned to mush from industrial cleaner in his drinking supply can just as easily die in a car crash. Your argument doesn’t attack the necessity of ag labor laws, it attacks the necessity of any law banning life-endangering behavior.

            • Well, I’d say I’m more disputing the notion that these agricultural jobs are inherently super dangerous (and also that the child labor aspect of it is that severe. Again, the rule wouldn’t even have applied to the teenagers from the first thread) so much as it’s very dangerous when employers (and workers too) don’t follow proper safety protocols. Prohibiting 15 year olds from working there won’t do anything to address the much, much larger problem.

              • Bill Murray

                but since that isn’t the sole or I would say a major reason for the rules, you’re really just trolling to take the focus off the administration not following through

                • Well, no, I’m pointing out that while everyone else is freaking out over something that will barely make any difference at the margins, no one seems particularly concerned about whether or not proper safety guards are regularly affixed or anything.

                • no one seems particularly concerned about whether or not proper safety guards are regularly affixed or anything.

                  Yea, I keep reading Loomis complaining about onerous OSHA regulations all the fucking time.

                • Well this is his second post on this rule with no mention of it.

                • That post is not about this rule.

                • Well, the fact that Loomis does not meantion OSHA on your personal timetable must, then, be irrefutable proof that Loomis hates OSHA. Q E Fucking D.

                • Saying that he hates OSHA and saying that he doesn’t know enough about the subject matter to identify the real problems does not exactly strike me as one in the same.

              • Anonymous

                Farming is a very dangerous job at least with respects to fatalities. It’s routinely in the top ten, and is much more deadly then being a truck driver or a police officer. So in fact it is more deadly then driving a car for a living. Do you work somewhere that employs child labour, is that what this about

                • Yes, it is dangerous. Because there’s an absurd amount of safety regulation violations going on as a matter of routine practice.

                • Anonymous

                  The fact that farming is poorly regulated and has routine safety problems is the reason it’s inherently dangerous.

                • So how is passing a rule that doesn’t affect the VAST majority of agribusiness workers in any way while completely ignoring the actual problem supposed to be cause for cheering, exactly?

                • Anonymous

                  Jesus. I’m interested in the question of how involved you are with child labour, because I’m getting a big “where you stand is where you sit” vibe here.

                  To answer your question: because we want to keep children out of dangerous occupations. Farming is a dangerous occupation, in part, because of poor adherence to safety rules. This is not a fact that fell out of the sky, into the economic landscape, it is part of the industry. Fatality rates in farming are very consistent in the industrialized world, and are much higher than fatality rates in general. So, if society wants to keep children away from dangerous employment, it’s going to want to keep them away from farming.

                • Unless it’s daddy’s farm, or daddy’s neighbors farm, of course.

                • Anonymous

                  We routinely allow parents to make bad decisions for their children. Farming is the most fatal non specialized occupation there is. From a safety standpoint we’d be better of letting 14 year-olds join the army. Your just rejecting the idea of child labor laws to keep them away from dangerous work conditions.

            • Or, put another way, it’s like if you had no laws against speeding or drunk driving and your solution was to prohibit anyone under 16 from riding in a car.

          • njorl

            Deaths in farming and ranching run at about 20 per 100 million hours worked for all employees. Deaths from teen drivers run at about 3.3 per 100 million miles driven. Assuming an average speed of 20 miles per hour, that’s about 0.17 deaths per 100 million hours driven.

            The hourly death rate of farm workers is over 100 times as high as the hourly death rate of teen-age drivers.

            Most fatal jobs:
            1. Fishing
            2. Logging
            3. Pilot/fight Engineer
            4. Farming/ranching

            I haven’t found any statistics, but if teen farm workers are as reckless as teen drivers, then their death rates will be about three times higher than farm workers in general. That would make it 300 times as dangerous for a teen to work on a farm as it is for a teen to drive a car.

            • Linnaeus

              This might help (via In These Times article by Mike Elk).

              Short version: Youth farm worker fatalities between 1992-2002 decreased when compared to the prior 20-year period. That said, young workers on farms had a fatality rate about 3.6 greater than that of young workers in all industries. 15 year olds had the highest rate: 6 times that of 15 year olds in all industries.

              • I don’t see anything to indicate that that study doesn’t count deaths occurring on family farms though.

                • Linnaeus

                  It probably does count family farms. I wasn’t arguing otherwise, just pointing out that there’s been some work done on the issue.

                • And I didn’t mean to say that you’re wrong, just pointint it our since the exemption here wouldn’t cover that. Especially since there are a lot more 15 year olds operating heavy machinery on family farms than at your local grain elevator.

            • BradP

              cHow do you get your numbers. The way I figure, if you want to come up with the deaths per 100M hours, you would multiply the number of deaths per 100M miles driven by the average speed.

              If 3.3 teens die in a car accident per 100M miles driven, then at an average of 20MPH, it would only take 5M hours for 3.3 teens to die. You would then multiply that by 20 to reach 66 deaths per 100M miles.

              • joe from Lowell

                per 100 million HOURS.

                • BradP

                  Yeah. That was a typo on my part. The last word of my post should be “hours”, not “miles”.

      • Furious Jorge

        Also old enough to die a nasty fiery death in a horrific car crash, so….yeah. Fun.

        As is anyone old enough to be a passenger in a car, so what’s your point?

        • Spud

          Which is also why we don’t have 16 year old professional drivers.

  • Heron

    It truly is amazing how disingenuous this little government missives can be.

    “The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms.

    Yeah, all those “family-owned farms” out there, locked into share-croppage by the ag corps that hold inescapable debt over their necks like the headsman’s axe. They talk a fine game about “tradition” and the “rural way of life” but what they really mean is peonage. When you don’t sell your decide what you’ll grow year to year, don’t sell your own produce, can never pay off the loans for your tractors or fertilizer, and are legally barred from replanting from seed one season to the next, you can hardly claim to be a free-hold farm-owner. The majority of ag workers in the US no more free from corporate influence than the cubicle jockey drawing a paycheck, and in certain respects, far less so.

    • Heron

      Oops; poor editing on my part

      Yeah, all those “family-owned farms” out there, locked into share-croppage by the ag corps that hold inescapable debt over their necks like the headsman’s axe. They talk a fine game about “tradition” and the “rural way of life” but what they really mean is peonage. When you don’t decide what you’ll grow year to year

      fixed

      • Are you talking about selling futures contracts or something?

  • The right-wing strategy of portraying industrialized factory farming as down-to-earth, homely “family” farming was the most infuriating bullshit propaganda I’ve seen in a long time.

    Fuck everything.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Is this really only a “right-wing” strategy? How much pushback against industrialized factory farming has come from what is casually known as “the left” (i.e. national Democrats)?

      • DrDick

        It is much more of a farm state strategy and largely bipartisan (which is part of why I hate bipartisanship, they can only come together on really bad ideas).

  • DrDick

    Please name anything that Obama has not caved on when faced with strong, predominately conservative, opposition?

    • joe from Lowell

      Withdrawal from Iraq.

      Cabon regs.

      Particulate regs.

      Mercury/toxics regs.

      DADT repeal.

      I could make you scroll for pages, if you’d like.

      You only notice administration actions when they give you an excuse to complain. Classic confirmation bias.

      • Ben

        Didn’t Obama largely follow the Bush (circa 2008) timetable?

        • joe from Lowell

          If you think Bush supported the timetable in the AUMF, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

          And what, exactly, is that supposed to do with the question? Are we pretending now that there wasn’t “strong, predominately conservative opposition” to withdrawing from Iraq?

          • joe from Lowell

            Not the AUMF, the SOFA.

          • Are we pretending now that there wasn’t “strong, predominately conservative opposition” to withdrawing from Iraq?

            Both sides do it!

            • joe from Lowell

              Heh.

              Actually, the current Republican Presidential nominee is now saying we should send tens of thousands of troops back to Iraq.

              I find it pretty surprising that they aren’t just letting the issue drop.

        • joe from Lowell

          Here is the Google search for “Iraq withdrawal Republicans,” to job your memory.

          • jobbed indeed

            Explains why you can not recall
            your erroneous comments – your memory was jobbed

          • Ben

            Sorry I’m just getting to this now, but:

            What that google search tells me is that Republicans were split on Obama’s Iraq withdrawal. Because that’s the headline of the fourth result. From Newsmax. Also on that first page is a story in The Hill that Republicans are “split”.

            That google search unequivocally confirms that the Republican primary clown show was united in its opposition to Obama’s Iraq plan. But of course they were, right.

            So DrDick says “show me Obama standing up to strong, predominately conservative, opposition”, and you offer “Iraq”. When he largely stuck to the deal made by Bush’s security team (and who gives a fuck what Bush himself supported; the Republican security team, Gates and all them, supported it, right? The reason this is important is because Republican politicians presumably would be careful in issuing “strong opposition” to a policy their security guys created, and could give a fuck about the preferences of an outgoing President who was radioactive). And the evidence confidently presented to demonstrate “strong opposition” shows that Republicans were split, and that the strongest opposition came from an exceedingly weak field of primary contenders who have no stature within the party.

            What am I missing?

            This isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but let’s not pretend Obama is some brave instigator of peace and light when he followed through on the implementation of a Republican strategy in the face of divided opposition.

            If you’da said Keystone pipeline, I’da been right there with you.

  • So they’re going to try to educate kids who can’t even sit still in class because they’re exhausted from working since dawn and edgy from mixing pesticides?

    • “So they’re going to try to educate kids who can’t even sit still in class because they’re exhausted from working since dawn”

      Did I miss the part where state restrictions on working time of school age kids now won’t apply to Cargill or something?

  • joe from Lowell

    Wall Street and the vaunted MIC got nuthin’ on the ag lobby. I’d put them up there with the retiree lobby.

    • david mizner

      Why do you hate the family farm?

  • Erik Loomis

    Easily my favorite part of this thread is Brien’s assumption that because I didn’t write a 2000 word post on he REAL problems with farm labor when I originally linked to the story that I either hate OSHA or don’t know what I’m talking about or don’t understand anything about agricultural labor. None of this is true but it all feeds Brien’s construction of me as an unserious buffoon

    • Walt

      But you do hate OSHA, right? A really effective regulatory regime would ban listening to Led Zeppelin in the workplace.

      • An OSHA that had teeth would codify the obvious fact that there was no better two-album streak than the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy’s Big Planet, Scarey Planet followed by Cult of the Basement, and the best three-album streak was Pere Ubu’s Story of my Life, Raygun Suitcase, and Pennsylvania. That Loomis does not admit this obvious truth is all the proof that I need that LGM is a Koch astroturf project.

        • firefall

          That’s seriously disturbing, I’ve actually heard of Pere Ubu. Obviously I need to revise my listening list

  • norbizness

    whatsbrienupto.blogspot.com

  • BradP

    With all the controversy over this, it seems like the parents and children in this situation likely have a better idea than anyone as to what is best for the child.

    And since it is so controversial, it is likely that there are 16 year old kids that work in safe environments and 16 year old kids that work in unsafe environments.

    From those two it follows that any regulation is going to bar 16 year olds from labor that would have been acceptable to the kid and the family, and even to us if we knew the details. If you are going to do this, you need to justify it by pointing out some reason why the subjects of this law are substantially likely to be put in an unduly risky situation by his or her guardians.

    • Ben

      Parents don’t know the risk adolescents take when working with chemicals/manure pits/large farming equipment. They don’t know that the chemicals/equipment are being used, don’t know they’re dangerous to humans, don’t know that the concentrations they’re used in are dangerous to adolescents, etc. It happens all the time that adults don’t know the dangers of the materials/equipment they themselves are working with. It’s reasonable for Congress to say “these situations are sufficiently dangerous often enough that the public interest is better served by protecting kids rather than subject them to the vagaries of parental knowledge.”

      Additionally, there’s an exploitation issue here too. We don’t let parents dictate the terms of their offspring’s employment. We don’t let parents say “it’s ok for my kid to bake bread all day when he’s 14 / deliver pizzas at night when he’s 16 / serve alcohol when he’s 17.” I don’t really see how your line of argument wouldn’t apply equally to those situations.

      • “Parents don’t know the risk adolescents take when working with chemicals/manure pits/large farming equipment. They don’t know that the chemicals/equipment are being used, don’t know they’re dangerous to humans, don’t know that the concentrations they’re used in are dangerous to adolescents, etc. It happens all the time that adults don’t know the dangers of the materials/equipment they themselves are working with.”

        Well that puts a wrench in that “daddy cares” theory, I guess.

        • Ben

          Presumably parents have a better understanding of the chemicals/processes/machines they use than ones they don’t.

          But yes the ultimate upshot to that observation is that there needs to be stronger regulatory investigation of stuff before it’s allowed to be sold/implemented. I don’t think you have a problem with that, Brad might though.