Farmworker Youth and Advocates Discuss Child Labor at Duke University

Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) in conjunction with Duke School of Divinity and other community members are celebrating National Farmworker Awareness Week by raising awareness about farmworker issues on campus and in our communities.  The Children in the Fields Campaign and NC FIELD youth council, Poder Juvenil Campesino, will be taking action in their community lending their voices to the movement for farmworker justice.

“One time when I was 11, I stayed in the fields for 10 hours trying to fill up a big bucket for $4.50 with little tomatoes. I don’t think it is fair. A lot of adults have died in the field, and here are kids like me running around working as fast as they can to fill up buckets to help their families,” recounts a North Carolina farmworker youth.

According to the National Center for Farmworker Health, the $28 billion U.S. produce industry is 85 percent cultivated and harvested by hand. Workers across the agricultural industry are put at great risk by their work environment; many of those affected are children. As many as 500,000 children across the United States work in the fields, often harvesting fruits and vegetables. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which is the major piece of occupational safety legislation used today, includes exemptions that allow children as young as 12 to work unlimited hours in the fields outside of school hours. Working conditions in these fields are often far from safe; children are particularly susceptible to pesticide exposure and dehydration. Furthermore, young farmworkers face significant difficulties trying to balance farm work, school, and family. It is on these children that the broken system of agriculture has its worst effects.

Join us on Thursday, March 29, at Duke University from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to view the documentary “Uprooted Innocence” and engage interactively with a panel of farmworker youth featured in the film as well as policy experts discussing the current status of child labor in agriculture and how we can work together to address the inequalities. The panel will be followed by a Q&A session and a farmworker youth photography exhibit will be on display.  Food will be catered by the Refectory Cafe.

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