By Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition
Today, we celebrate the birth of legendary farmworker and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of impoverished migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
Chavez began working in the fields at age 10 in 1937 when the Great Depression took his family’s farm in Yuma, Arizona. Nearly a half century later in his Commonwealth Club Address of 1984, Chavez reminded Americans that child labor was still a problem in U.S. agriculture.
Today, sadly, child labor in the fields is flourishing.
Cesar Chavez attended 65 elementary schools as his family migrated to find work. He did not graduate high school. Overwhelmed by constant migration and exhaustion from arduous work, many migrant children drop out of school—half never graduate—and contribute to the generational poverty that has troubled the farmworker community for decades.
We are asking our friends to call Congress today to express their concern about child farmworkers and support for the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment, HR 3564. Our alert follows with a list of the current 78 congressional cosponsors attached. If your member of Congress is not on this list, we would very much appreciate your calling today. In the DC area, Rep. VanHollen, Rep. Holmes-Norton, and Rep. Edwards are not cosponsors yet.
Call your Representative on Cesar Chavez Day March 31, 2010 to support the CARE Act (H.R. 3564)
Hundreds of thousands of children work in agriculture throughout the United States. Child farmworkers as young as twelve often work 8-12 hour days under dangerous and grueling conditions. They risk pesticide poisoning, injuries, and suffer fatalities at five times the rate of children working in other jobs. As a result of their long hours, they drop out of school at alarming rates. Nationally, barely half graduate from high school.
Although agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, child farmworkers are exempt from the legal protections granted to all other working children in the US.
Please help us honor the legacy of civil rights leader and advocate for farmworkers Cesar Chavez on his birthday, Wednesday, March 31st by urging your Representative to sponsor the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), H.R. 3564. This important piece of legislation would adjust the age and work hours for children in agriculture to the same standards as other sectors, ensuring equal protection for all children. The bill would also preserve the family farm exemption to permit farmers to pass on work skills to their own children.
Call Congress on Wednesday March 31st at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to the office of your representative.