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The Trump Child Labor Agenda

[ 32 ] April 7, 2017 |

TOBACCO-videoSixteenByNine1050

Trump’s EPA is making the lives of the children who labor on our farms, which is in itself a legacy of Jim Crow and the inability to get the Fair Labor Standards Act through Congress without excluding typically black work in 1938, far less safe. Which is of course a benefit for these psychopaths.

“Luz” started picking strawberries in Florida when she was just nine years old. Her wages helped her mother buy groceries and school supplies, but the work was hard and she often missed class. Exposure to pesticides also made her sick: “When I was in the fields, I took in the chemicals they put on the plants . . . My stomach was always heaving. Every single day.”

Hundreds of thousands of children work on US farms because of child labor laws that allow kids as young as 12 to work as many as 50 or 60 hours a week in agriculture. Since 2000, Human Rights Watch has documented the dangers of this work, including pesticide poisoning, injuries from sharp tools and heavy machines, and fatality rates that are four times higher for child farmworkers than youth working in any other sector. Will the Trump administration take seriously its duty to protect these children from harm? The early signs are not good.

The Trump Administration’s choice of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) triggered widespread alarm, and with good reason. Pruitt has a long record of strident opposition to the EPA’s efforts to protect people from environmental hazards. Last week, he announced the EPA would allow continued use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, despite conclusions from EPA scientists that the chemical is particularly hazardous to children. Research studies have found exposure can cause learning deficits, impacts on brain development, reproductive health problems, and increased rates of cancer. Children are particularly at risk because their bodies and nervous systems are still developing.

According to the New York Times, chlorpyrifos is currently used on about 50 different types of crops and on about 40,000 farms. Research has found that health risks from the chemical can persist for up to 18 days after application to crops. Many child farmworkers have told Human Rights Watch about working in fields that were still wet with pesticides or breathing in pesticide drift while nearby fields were being sprayed.

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Comments (32)

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  1. DrDick says:

    Killing poor and brown people, or at least making their lives even more miserable, is a central conservative policy priority.

    • UnderTheSun says:

      Killing poor and brown people, or at least making their lives even more miserable, is a central conservative policy priority.

      It’s not just a conservative policy priority, it’s also a Clintonist liberal policy priority these days.

      “Luz” started picking strawberries in Florida when she was just nine years old.

      Unless she’s still nine years old, which I doubt, it wasn’t “Trump’s EPA” that started making her life less safe it was Obama’s EPA that did.

  2. Rob in CT says:

    Question for you Erik.

    I remember a few years back… maybe late first term?, the Obama administration proposed some new farm worker rules, specifically with some tighter rules for kids. I also remember “family farmers” freaking the fuck out and objecting. My memory (which is not great, so…) is that the proposal ultimately died, or was at least significantly watered down because of the pushback.

    Is my memory right and, if so, would it have impacted this issue?

    • DrDick says:

      You are correct and there were posts about it here. Small farmers really are not rational on this issue. My generally good Democratic senator, a farmer, opposed the bill even though he had lost three fingers on his left hand in a farming accident.

      • Murc says:

        Oh, they’re entirely rational on this issue. They want to use small children, including some of their own family members, as either unpaid or badly-paid labor. That’s a grotesquely evil position to take but it is a rational one.

        It’s a deeply fucked-up culture. These are folks who think that their twelve-year-old children should be investing twenty to forty hours a week into hard and sometimes dangerous physical labor because “it builds character” or even worse, “they gotta earn their keep.”

        I got no specific objection to kids being made to do some work around the house. I mowed my share of lawns as a kid, I vacuumed, I did laundry. But you know what, when I got out of school for the summer my dad didn’t see it as an opportunity to get my into the fields for forty hours a week.

        • Linnaeus says:

          They want to use small children, including some of their own family members, as either unpaid or badly-paid labor. That’s a grotesquely evil position to take but it is a rational one.

          Why do you hate the Free Market(tm)?

        • DrDick says:

          Having known a fair number of these folks, they really do regard this as like mowing the lawn and doing the laundry and mostly this is their own and the neighbor’s kids we are talking about here. The children of migrant farm workers is something else altogether, and they frequently turn a blind eye to flagrant violations of the law.

          • los says:

            As I recall, the biggest noise was a Parental Rights complaint.
            Apparently, a 16 year old’s leg torn off by farm equipent is a Pro-Life cause.

            I saw those complaints on the web. They stopped after the text containing the “family” exemption was pasted onto the webpage.

            neighbor’s kids

            IIRC, neighbor’s kids clearly didn’t qualify as “family”.

        • Kodachrome says:

          My wife and I both grew up growing and selling veggies on our small (sub 5 acres) farms. And today we garden and raise chickens, and involve our kids in that. And the danger may be comparable to chores, but that’s really missing the point. This is something our kids like doing, it’s fun. They would be crushed if we told them they couldn’t do it anymore.

          It’s not comparable to spraying massive amounts of pesticides on undocumented kids at industrial farms. The Obama admin’s laws needed to be able to tell the two things apart, and they didn’t.

          • Origami Isopod says:

            This is something our kids like doing, it’s fun. They would be crushed if we told them they couldn’t do it anymore.

            Sure, but I doubt you’re pulling them out of school entirely so they can farm.

          • Rob in CT says:

            Sure, and that sounds like a perfectly reasonable criticism to me. So, how to distinguish, in a regulation?

          • Murc says:

            My wife and I both grew up growing and selling veggies on our small (sub 5 acres) farms. And today we garden and raise chickens, and involve our kids in that.

            “Involve” covers a multitude of sins.

            Because I assume everyone commenting at LGM is a good person until proven otherwise, I assume that for you it means “the kids do some light, chore-equivalent work like feeding a small number of chickens and helping us weed and pick vegetables, involving an appropriate amount of labor for children of their ages.”

            For many other people “involve” means “they put in twenty hours a week, nights and weekends, forty to sixty in the summer. They’re responsible for large amounts of produce or livestock, disciplined harshly if they fuck up because they’re costing the family money by doing so, and made to operate dangerous equipment.”

          • los says:

            Kodachrome says:

            something our kids like doing, it’s fun

            Beware. Pulling weeds will someday suddenly spur your offspring into coming after you with pitchforks.

            /s

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I will need to look up some of the details here.

  3. NBarnes says:

    But her emails!

  4. Nobdy says:

    But the Times told me that Trump’s beautiful heart was so broken at seeing children sprayed with deadly chemicals in Syria that he had to blow up an empty airfield.

    Maybe the issue was that the Syrian spraying wasn’t profitable and that’s what broke his heart? It is only okay to spray children with dangerous chemicals if it makes some white guy marginally richer?

    As happy as I am that the AHCA fell apart, the administrative state allows Trump to do untold damage to the most vulnerable. The evil he can wreak in 4 years is almost unimaginable.

    • Thom says:

      Polite request that we use the normal English expression “bureaucracy,” rather than “administrative state.” We already have a word, and it is shorter.

  5. thebewilderness says:

    I remember that many of us had what the adults called a summer cold when we worked in the berry fields. They said it was our own fault for passing the germs around all summer.

  6. ChrisS says:

    How have there not been massive class action lawsuits?

  7. OT: I’m seeing “Norrin Radd” below. I thought that abusive creep was banned.

    .

  8. kayden says:

    According to the New York Times, chlorpyrifos is currently used on about 50 different types of crops and on about 40,000 farms.

    Would love to see environmental groups organize boycotts of those farms. Businesses should be embarrassed into not using these harmful pesticides on crops.

  9. diogenes says:

    Part culture, part exploitation. We all woke on family farms when I was a kid, and we knew fathers that were rough on their kids. Mine was not. I was driving a tractor at age 6, which was cool and not unusual.

    He had a heart attack when I was 8 and he never farmed again. We needed the money and I hired myself out. By 12, I was earning and making a man’s wage.

    And I found out about some assholes farmers who’d screw a kid out of wages.

    Most kids I knew worked in tobacco.

  10. dbk says:

    Well, for what it’s worth now that this thread has gone dead: the EPA [and its Director] is being sued by three environmental groups for this rescinding of a decision (Pesticide Action Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, and EarthJustice, also serving as counsel to the plaintiffs).

    Chlorpyrifos is made by Dow. Dow donated $1million to the inaugural committee. The CEO of Dow, Andrew Liveris, is head of the President’s manufacturing council.

  11. […] I agree with this to some level. Given the Trump OSHA and EPA though, workers are literally facing a question of life or death. The Trump administration is not an opportunity for renewal. There’s no silver lining here. […]

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