An Overview of the C.A.R.E. Act
The Children's Act for Responsible Employment is a bill in the United States that would bring parity of labor conditions to children field workers that are afforded to minors in other occupations. The bill was introduced by Representative Roybal-Allard in 2009.
In the United States, children as young as 12 years of age work as many as 12 hours a day, six months a year, and are subject to dangerous conditions. Lack of consistent schooling threatens their academic opportunities, while hazardous conditions threaten their lives. The agriculture industry answers to significantly more lenient labor regulation than any other industry in the US. And while agriculture is a hazardous occupation, no statistics are maintained on child laborers and serious accidents.
While retaining the current standard exemptions for family farms, the CARE Act states that teenagers must be at least 16 years of age to work in agriculture and at least 18 years of age to perform hazardous work. The bill retains an existing exemption that permits 14 and 15-year-olds to work in certain agriculture jobs, during limited shifts and outside of school hours.
In addition to addressing the age and hour requirements for child farmworkers, the CARE Act addresses several other issues. To serve as a stronger deterrent for employers who violate child labor laws, the bill increases the maximum civil monetary penalties for child labor violations from $11,000 to $15,000, and the maximum penalty to $50,000. It also imposes a criminal penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment for willful or repeat violations that lead to the death or serious injury of a child worker. To more effectively protect children from the physical dangers of agricultural work, CARE codifies the labor standards for pesticide exposure to the levels currently enforced by the EPA, which prohibits children under 18 from handling pesticides. Handling pesticides is already illegal for children in every industry but agriculture.
In 2010, on the one-year anniversary of the bill's introduction, Actress Eva Longoria Parker and our friend and collaborator Robin Romano joined the congresswoman on Capitol Hill for the showing of select scenes from the documentary, The Harvest/La Cosecha. The documentary shows children harvesting the food we eat in unbelievable heat conditions, and that this abuse is still legal in America.
In June, the Congresswoman Roybal-Allard lead 12 of her fellow House members in reintroducing the bill. She has remained committed and dedicated to it's passage.