Human Rights Watch makes the following recommendations regarding the protection of juvenile farmworkers in the United States and urges their adoption as soon as possible:
To The United States Congress
· The Fair Labor Standards Act should be amended to increase the protection extended to juveniles working in agriculture. Such protection should conform with that offered to other working children in the United States and bring it into accord with international standards for the protection of children. Specifically, the act should be amended to:
· Prohibit the employment of children aged thirteen and younger in agriculture, except for those working on farms owned and operated by their parents.
· Limit the number of hours that children aged fourteen and fifteen can legally work in agriculture to: three hours a day on a school day and eighteen hours a week during a school week; eight hours a day on a nonschool day and forty hours a week when school is not in session.
· Prohibit before-school agricultural work by children aged fifteen and younger. (Currently, there are no restrictions on early-morning agricultural work, although in nonagricultural occupations such work is forbidden for under-sixteen-year olds.)
· Raise the minimum age for hazardous agricultural work to eighteen.
· In addition, The Fair Labor Standards Act should be amended to impose on sixteen and seventeen-year olds enrolled full time in school the same hourly restrictions on employment that apply to those fifteen and younger.
· Regarding application of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Congress should halt its yearly approval of a rider exempting farms with ten or fewer employees from OSHA jurisdiction.
· Congress must address the educational and vocational needs of farmworkers. This is urgent, particularly for those juveniles who have already dropped out of school. The national program created for farmworker youth under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 should be adequately funded to enable states to assist farmworker youth in completing their education and securing meaningful job training and placement assistance.
To the Wage and Hour Division, United States Department of Labor
· The Wage and Hour Division should dramatically increase agricultural workplace inspections targeting child labor and minimum wage violations. All violators should be sanctioned to the fullest extent of the law. Furthermore, serious, repeat, and willful violators should be actively publicized as such, both for deterrence purposes and to educate the public regarding child labor rights.
· The Wage and Hour Division should utilize The Fair Labor Standards Act's "hot goods" provision, which prohibits the interstate movement of goods produced in violation of child labor or minimum wage laws, whenever possible, favoring it over the traditional course of citations and relatively insignificant civil money penalties.
· Joint liability between farm labor contractors and growers should be pursued wherever possible in cases where a farm labor contractor has been found in violation of federal law.
· The Wage and Hour Division should initiate immediately a program of concerted collaboration with state child labor enforcement agencies and other child protection bodies. Such collaboration should encompass data-gathering and dissemination, the prioritization of enforcement goals, and strategies for achieving those goals according to available state and federal resources. At an absolute minimum, WHD should collect and review state enforcement data so as to determine the most urgent federal priorities and whether duplication of efforts is occurring.
· The Wage and Hour Division should collect, maintain, and disseminate statistics regarding the following:
· The number of children working in agriculture, disaggregated by age and state and, to the extent possible, by race and ethnicity;
· The number of children injured while working in agriculture each year, disaggregated by the type and severity of injury;
· The number of children sickened each year by occupational exposure to pesticides.
To The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), United States Department of Labor, and to "State-Plan" States
· OSHA should vigorously enforce the Field Sanitation Regulations, which require employers to provide workers with drinking water, toilets, and handwashing facilities. Such enforcement must be proactive and include agency-initiated, unannounced inspections.
· OSHA should require that all states enforcing OSHA-approved "State Plans" do so in a vigorous manner, including frequent unannounced inspections.
· In all cases involving farm labor contractors, both federal OSHA and State-Plan states should initiate a policy of pursuing joint liability between farm labor contractors and growers.
· Both federal OSHA and State-Plan states should encourage other state and federal agencies to report all violations observed in the field; upon receipt of such information OSHA should immediately inspect the workplace in question.
· Both federal OSHA and State-Plan states should collect, maintain, and make available annual statistics regarding:
· The number of inspections carried out at agricultural workplaces;
· Whether those inspections were agency-initiated, were in response to information received from other agencies, or were the result of worker complaints; and
· The results of the inspections, including abatements, citations, and fines.
· Both federal OSHA and State-Plan states should launch aggressive public education campaigns regarding field sanitation regulations; these campaigns should include toll-free numbers where workers and others can report complaints by telephone.
To The Environmental Protection Agency
· The Worker Protection Standard should be amended to:
· Impose a minimum age of eighteen for all pesticide handlers;
· Revise restricted-entry intervals (REIs), which prohibit entry into an area treated by pesticides for a specified period of time following the application of the chemicals. The revised REIs should distinguish between adults and children and impose more stringent REIs for children. The revised REIs also should incorporate an additional safety margin on top of what is determined necessary to ensure short and long-term safety, and should take into account the combined effect of both occupational and non-occupational exposures. The EPA currently uses an acute illness model that does not protect workers from long-term, chronic effects of pesticides.
· The EPA should closely monitor states' enforcement of the Worker Protection Standard and related pesticide regulations to ensure that such enforcement is vigorous and meaningful.
· The EPA should expand its program to educate workers regarding the Worker Protection Standard, and should ensure that materials used are culturally, age, and language appropriate.
· The EPA should ensure that state agencies responsible for enforcement of EPA regulations are staffed by a sufficient number of trained, bilingual (Spanish and English) compliance officers. Training should be offered to state compliance officers on an as-needed basis.
· The EPA should collect, maintain, and make available state enforcement statistics regarding farmworkers and pesticide safety.
To All States
· State child labor laws should be at least as protective as federal standards.
· All states should set or raise the minimum age for agricultural work to at least fourteen, with the exception of children working on farms owned and operated by their parents.