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USA: Violation of child labor laws on the rise

2023-05-30 16:26:01, Kosova & Bota CNA

USA: Violation of child labor laws on the rise

The US Department of Labor says the number of children employed in violation of labor laws has increased since 2015. While the overall number of violations is still lower than two decades ago, experts say the increase is troubling.

In early May, the US Department of Labor fined a number of McDonald's restaurants in Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland and Ohio after learning that they had illegally employed 300 children to perform tasks that are too dangerous for minors.

In Louisville, Kentucky, two 10-year-old children sometimes worked until 2 a.m., one even running the hot oil machine, without getting paid, the Labor Department said.

Last year, an investigation by the Reuters news agency found that a number of children, some as young as 12, had been working at four Hyundai and Kia auto parts factories in Alabama.

Investigations by the New York Times also found illegal child labor practices at Ford, General Motors, J. Crew, Walmart, Target and Whole Foods.

For fiscal year 2022, the Labor Department recorded 688 cases of children working in environments considered hazardous to them, the highest number since 2011.

"It is about jobs in meat packing centers, in construction, or work with hand saws and explosives. The Department of Labor found that meatpacking plants as of 2019 had begun hiring young children," says Debbie Berkowitz, a worker safety expert at Georgetown University.

Experts say that immigration is one of the reasons for the increase in violations of child labor laws. In the last two years alone, the US Department of Health and Human Resources registered about 250,000 immigrant children who arrived in the United States without their parents.

"These children are in vital need of work and income, some of which they send to Central America and Mexico. They must also pay traffickers for reaching the United States. The companies have not respected the standards and procedures for the protection of children at work. The standards are clearly not working," says Reid Maki of the Children's Labor Coalition.

According to the Farm Workers Association, an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 work in the United States' agricultural sector. Some US states allow children over the age of 10 to work on farms. The U.S. Department of Labor says agriculture is protected by certain federal laws related to minimum wage and overtime pay.

“Ka përjashtime në Ligjin për Standardet e Drejta të Punës, që i lejojnë fëmijët e moshës 12 vjeçare të punojnë me orë të pakufizuara në bujqësi për sa kohë që nuk mungojnë në shkollë.”

Ekspertët Maki dhe Berkowitz shtojnë se shumë fëmijë që lënë punë të tilla për shkak të hetimeve gazetareske mbi praktikat e padrejta të punës shpesh përfundojnë sërish në punë të ngjashme sepse kanë nevojë për para.

“Kur mendojmë për fëmijët e pambrojtur, duhet të pyesim pse ata kanë nevojë të punojnë për të mbështetur veten dhe familjet e tyre dhe çfarë mund të bëjmë për të trajtuar shkaqet rrënjësore të varfërisë që po i shtyjnë ata në këto vende të rrezikshme të punës", thotë Annie Smith nga Fakulteti Juridik i Universitetit të Arkansasit.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, over 11 million children in the United States currently live below the federal poverty line./ VOA

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