Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07) and Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-25) introduced the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE) Act of 2023, which would raise national labor standards for farmworker children to the same level set for children in all other occupations.
Agriculture is the only industry with labor laws that allow children as young as 12 to work with virtually no restrictions on the number of hours they spend in the fields outside of school. According to the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, every day, 33 children are injured while working on U.S. farms. What’s more, a recent GAO report found that more than half of work-related fatalities for children happen in the agriculture sector.
To address this, the CARE Act would bring age and work hour standards for children in agriculture up to the standards for children working in all other industries. Among its other provisions, the bill would also establish a minimum penalty for child labor violations, increase the maximum civil monetary penalties and maximum criminal penalties for child labor violations, and provide children with greater protection against pesticide exposure.
“Farmworkers and their children are some of the most unfairly exploited laborers in our nation. They deserve legal protections, better working conditions, and higher workplace standards to protect their health and safety,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It’s a moral imperative that we update our antiquated labor laws to give children working in agriculture the same protections and rights provided to everyone in the workforce. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation with Rep. Ruiz to protect farmworkers and their kids from southern Arizona to California and beyond. ”
“Farm labor is incredibly dangerous work with one of the highest occupational injury rates in our nation. In fact, every three days, a child employee dies while working in agriculture,” said Dr. Ruiz. “Despite these dangerous conditions, agriculture is the only industry with little to no protections for the 400,000 young children who work in this industry every day. As the son of farmworkers, I’m working to change that. My bill, the CARE Act, would raise labor standards for child farmworkers across the country, protecting their health, safety, and overall well-being. This legislation will bring much-needed parity to farmworkers, advancing equity for the families and workers who help put food on our tables and play an essential role in our economy every day.”
“We are delighted that Rep. Ruiz and Rep. Grijalva are introducing legislation with critical protections for farmworker children—America’s most vulnerable workers,” said Reid Maki, Director of Child Labor Advocacy for the National Consumers League and the Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, which has 39 organizational members. “We have fought for many years against exemptions in child labor law that date back more than 80 years and allow farmworker children to work long hours in the field at just 12 years old. This legislation by Rep. Ruiz and Grijalva is closing those labor law loopholes to allow farmworker children the same protections enjoyed by all other children and will help them to thrive.”
“Children as young as 12 are being hired to do backbreaking work on US farms, at risk of serious injuries, heat stroke, pesticide poisoning, and even death,” said Margaret Wurth, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The CARE Act would provide child farmworkers with important protections given to children working in all other sectors. Existing US child labor laws are woefully out of date and put child farmworkers at unacceptable risk. Congress should act swiftly to adopt the CARE Act and ensure that all children are protected equally.”
While retaining current exemptions for family farms, the CARE Act would:
- Bring age and work hour standards for children in agriculture up to the standards for children working in all other industries;
- Establish a minimum penalty for child labor violations;
- Increase the maximum civil monetary penalties and maximum criminal penalties for child labor violations;
- Provide children with greater protection against pesticide exposure in agriculture by raising the labor protections to EPA standards.
- Includes reporting requirements on work-related injuries and serious illnesses.
The CARE Act introduced by Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-25) is cosponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-07), Rep. Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), Rep, Jim McGovern (MA-02), Rep. Katie Porter (CA-47), Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Rep. Barbra Lee (CA-12), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (NY-14), Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03), Rep. Nydia Vasquez (NY-07), Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Rep. Nanette Barragan (CA-44), Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Adam Schiff (CA-30), Rep. Danny Davis (IL-07), Rep. Andre Carson (IN-07), Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26), Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Rep. Mark Takano (CA-39), Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-52), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07).
The CARE Act is endorsed by 190 organizations such as the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Human Rights Watch, NAACP, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, National Migrant and Seasonable Head Start Association, Sierra Club, SEIU, and United Farm Workers of American. For more information on the CARE Act, click here.