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Abolish Child Labor - Poster of the Week

Updated: Apr 27, 2023




Abolish Child Labor

Rebel Arts Group

Silkscreen, Late 1930s

New York, NY

59260


What do Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Nature Valley, Cheetos and many other popular processed foods and brands have in common? They all exploit child labor. CSPG’s Poster of the Week highlights a fight many of us thought was over.

In the late 1930s, during the Great Depression, the New York-based Rebel Arts Group created this poster to protest child labor—efforts which in the United States had been going on for over a century. Rebel Arts was a socialist artists' cooperative founded by students in 1934.


In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed and became the most sweeping federal law in the fight to end child labor; it regulated the employment of those under 16 or 18 years of age.


Thanks to over a century’s worth of efforts to end child labor, the FLSA intended to prevent minors from working at many dangerous jobs, and children younger than 16 were not supposed to work for more than three hours or after 7 p.m. on school days.


Not only are these statutes increasingly ignored, but many states, such as Iowa, Minnesota, Maine, Michigan, and New Jersey, are currently working to loosen child labor laws to allow children as young as 14 to work in hazardous jobs. On February 25, the New York Times published a shocking investigation that revealed that unaccompanied migrant children as young as 12 years old, predominantly from Central America, are currently working under extremely hazardous conditions.


Migrant children are currently working late hours for corporations such as Hearthside Food Solutions, Fruit of the Loom, Whole Foods, Walmart, J. Crew and Frito-Lay. Caseworkers estimate that nearly two-thirds of them end up working full time, working some of the most dangerous jobs in the country – factory workers, slaughterhouse workers, roofers, agricultural workers, food workers – for up to 12 hours at a time. The Labor Department tracks the deaths of foreign-born child workers, but has not made them public since 2017. The NY Times documented a dozen cases of young migrant workers killed since the Labor Department stopped reporting them. Due to the illegality of child labor, deaths and accidents of migrant child workers are often unreported. Documented injuries include legs torn off and spines fractured.


The Biden administration under Secretary Becerra bears responsibility for the plight of these child laborers. The U.S. Government has been pushing child immigrants out of shelters into the care of unrelated adults and sponsored homes at an increasingly rapid rate, despite case managers stating in a 2021 memo that they were concerned labor trafficking was increasing. Since 2008, the U.S. has allowed non-Mexican minors to live with sponsors as they go through the years-long immigration processes. The Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.) has lost contact with more than 85,000 of these children.

Not only are these children working to help provide for their families in their home countries, but many are being exploited by sponsors. One H.H.S. contractor noted that the number of children arriving in the U.S. began climbing around 2014, and almost all of them in recent years arrive with debts they have to pay off. One child interviewed testified to owing over $4,000 plus interest to their sponsor for food, rent, and clothes. Monitoring of sponsors by the government is minimal.



Since the investigation was released, the White House has announced a crackdown on the rampant exploitation of migrant child labor. We should all be outraged that in 2023, the exploitation of children is still taking place. Is it time to boycott companies exploiting children?


 

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