News Release

Clinton and Child Labor Rights


In his speech today at the International Labor Organization Conference in Geneva, President Clinton said: “We must wipe from the Earth the most vicious forms of abusive child labor. Every single day, tens of millions of children work in conditions that shock the conscience… There are children handling dangerous chemicals; children forced to work when they should be in school…” The following analysts are available to discuss issues of child labor and human rights:

Executive director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, a group of employment training and service organizations located in 49 states and Puerto Rico, Mull said: “There are 300,000 to one million children working illegally in the U.S.; most of them are in agriculture. (Other major sectors are child prostitution, pornography, street-selling kids and sweatshops.) Under U.S. federal law, there are child labor exemptions that make it legal for a child as young as six to work as a hired worker in agriculture. They can work an unlimited number of hours before school, after school and during the school week. An August 1998 GAO report, ‘Child Labor in Agriculture,’ found that children in agriculture are working in more hazardous conditions with less protections than children in any other industry. Currently, it is not considered hazardous for a child to work in a field that has been treated with dangerous agricultural chemicals… Of all children working, 8 percent are in agriculture, but over 40 percent of fatalities are in that sector. Children are working under such conditions because their parents are themselves not able to earn a living wage in agriculture — since that industry enjoys exemptions under provisions for minimum wage, unemployment compensation, workers compensation, overtime and collective bargaining.”
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Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education, Ross said: “Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone is entitled to a job that provides an adequate standard of living for themselves and their family, that no coercion is allowed and that no child labor should be used. But the economic managers of the U.S. economy are violating those policies. The two fastest growing labor forces in this country today are prison labor and welfare labor. A corporation can pay prisoners in Louisiana as little as four cents an hour to fill a job that used to cost $20 an hour. When the U.S. government chooses to intervene on labor issues, it leans towards policies protecting profits, not workers’ rights. If the U.S. was serious about protecting workers’ human rights, it would ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Women and the Covenant on Economic Human Rights.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167