child farm labor one

Child Labor




ironic sacrifice adolescence
illegal cramped accommodation
permit harvest alternative
field (2) poverty integrate
set off extreme efforts are in vain
bureau shift (2) responsible
limit grow up trailer (2)
allow vain (2) fraudulent
claim abandon pregnant
plight lobbyist step-mother






In the Southern United States, it’s not unusual to see Latin American children working during the harvest.

They make 35 cents for a basket of potatoes; the fast pickers can earn up to $800 a month.

Emily Drakage, Social Worker: “Many sacrifice their childhood…their adolescence… their education…their health…to be out here — putting food on our tables.

And it’s so ironic that sometimes they’re the ones that end up with the least opportunities or end up in a situation where they don’t have food to feed themselves.”

The children’s working day starts before sunrise.

Fifteen year old Esteban lives here with ten other young Latin Americans. Their trailer is parked at the edge of a forest. They have no contract with their North American neighbors.

The farmer provided the cramped accommodation.

They watch music videos over breakfast.

Esteban: “Well I got used to it, and now it’s okay. But in the beginning I didn’t like it.”

Esteban and his fourteen-year-old friend, Gilberto, speak only Spanish. They’re in the country illegally. And neither have work permits, or health insurance.

When he gets up in the morning, Gilberto often doesn’t know which farm they’ll be working on.

Gilberto: “Right now, we’re harvesting sweet potatoes. I go and work in many different places. But here I have my friends.

No, I don’t have any dreams.”

The only alternative for Gilberto and Esteban would be to return to Mexico . . . but the poverty is extreme over the border.

Esteban: “I will stay and keep working here. We can’t really do anything else because we need the right papers.

And we don’t have those.”

The two of them set off for the fields.

Just a few kilometers away, local children begin their school day.

Teacher Mary Lee Moore has tried to integrate the children working in the neighboring fields.

Her efforts are usually in vain.

Mary Lee Moore, Chatham Middle School, Silver City: “Well many of them have to help support their families. And so it’s difficult for a child to work third shift, work all night…and to get up in the morning…and to come to class and to be on time…and to get their homework done.”

Social worker Emily Drakage is also trying to improve the plight of child laborers, but she often feels powerless to help.

Emily Drakage, Social Worker: “When you are allowed to work as unlimited amount hours in fields outside of school, as young as 12 and even in cases, as young as ten years old, with written permission from your parents.

So we’re seeing that this same level of protection that is offered in all other industries, are not being offered to these kids who are working in agriculture, which happens to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the country.”

Human Rights Watch says at least 43 children have died in work-related accidents on US farms between 2005 and 2008.

The laws protecting some 500,000 child laborers date back to before the Second World War. Back then it was normal for children to help out with the harvest during their summer holidays.

Even today, the farmers are legally responsible for what goes on in their fields.

But agricultural lobbyists say farmers are not to blame.

Larry Wooten, North Carolina Farm Bureau President: “I’m sure there are many, many undocumented migrants that have used fraudulent documents to say ‘I’m legal to work here.’

Well in fact they’re not.

But the farmer cannot question the documents.”

This boy’s papers claim he’s 20 years old — in fact Moses is 12.

He wants to be a policeman when he grows up.

Fifteen year old Blanca Stella works in the same field. She got pregnant at the age of 13. The child’s father abandoned her.

Blanca Stella: “I want to have a better life . . . and I want my daughter to have an education, and have everything she needs.

Blanca Stella lives with her step-mother and other laborers in a trailer.

She wants a different future for her daughter.

Blanca Stella: “I have a dream for my daughter. I will try to give her a good education so she can become a lawyer if she wants to when she’s an adult.

I’d like her to become a lawyer.”

The hopes for her child give Blanca the strength to get up every morning — and go to work in the fields.

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1. Most of the child farm laborers are Latin American, not White Americans. Why are most harvesters Hispanic?

2. Do they earn a lot or very little money? Are they paid by the hour?

3. According to the social worker, is farm labor good or bad for children? Give examples.

4. They live in family homes and drive or ride to work. True or false? What is their accommodation like?

5. Why do the children work instead of going to school? How do their parents feel about this?

6. Is it legal or illegal for 12 year olds to work in farm fields? Is everyone sympathetic to the plight of children farm laborers? Who are sympathetic and who are not?

7. What do the farm laborers want? What do they want for their and their children’s future?
A. Do you see child workers? Is this a widespread problem?

B. Why is there child labor?

C. Should there be child farm work? Do you agree with farm child labor?

D. How can this be solved?

E. It’s important for children to start working — doing chores — at an early age. What do you think?

F. How will things be in the future?

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