School has let out for the summer and many children across the country will enjoy their vacation playing at the pool, running through sprinklers, and jumping in nearby rivers, lakes, and the ocean to beat the heat and enjoy childhood summertime fun. Centuries ago, the end of the school year was initially created during the summer months so children could help harvest fruits and vegetables on their family farm. That tradition has long passed now that many family farms have disappeared and large, industrial-size farming has taken over.
However, there are still many children whose summer break will not be filled with trips to the coast, summer camp, or pool side playing. Migrant and seasonal farmworker youth will toil in the hundred-degree heat to harvest the fruits and vegetables that we savor daily as we sit down to eat with family and friends.
Farmworker children will be subjected to long hours of work, repetitive bending and lifting of heavy buckets, and exposure to toxic pesticides used to treat field crops. Even when migrant and seasonal farmworker children are not working in the fields, migrant housing is often situated at the edges of fields continually exposing them to dangerous pesticides. These chemicals drift into the yards where the children play and contaminate laundry being hung to dry.
Even the slightest exposure to pesticides has been scientifically linked to a number of physical, mental, and developmental disorders in children and pregnant women. Why does the U.S. law continue to permit boys and girls as young as 12 years old to work an unlimited number of hours outside of school in the fields, exposing them to such a hazardous environment? Why are these children any different from the rest of our kids who spend the summer exploring, playing, and enjoying childhood? Enough is enough. Help end child labor in America’s fields.
For more information on child labor in the U.S. and for simple ways to get involved, check out “Year of the Farmworker Child.” To learn more about what advocates are doing in North Carolina, please visit www.ncfield.org and www.harvestofdignity.org.