Eva Longoria and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard Introduce CARE act to protect child farmworkers in the US
Capitol Hill, Washington– At a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, June 16th, Actor and Activist Eva Longoria and Shine Global joined Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34) and other child advocates in announcing the introduction of “The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment” (CARE), legislation which ensures adequate protections for children working in our nation’s agricultural fields.
“Agriculture is the only industry governed by labor laws that allow children as young as 12 to work with virtually no restrictions on the number of hours they spend in the fields outside of the school day,” Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard said. “Tragically, unable to keep up with the competing demands of long work hours in the fields and school, a recent report found that child farmworkers drop out of school at four times the national dropout rate – slamming the door shut on the very pathway that could one day help them escape a lifetime of unrelenting work harvesting our crops. I simply do not believe that our child labor laws reflect how we as Americans value our children.”
Exposing the hardships of child farmworkers, THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA, a new film by Shine Global, U. Roberto Romano and Executive Producer Eva Longoria, examines the day-to-day lives of child migrant laborers. The film tells the stories of three adolescents who travel with their families across thousands of miles to pick crops in southern Texas, northern Michigan and northern Florida during the harvest season. Along the way, they face back breaking labor in 100-degree heat, physical hazards from pesticides, the emotional burden of helping their families through economic crises when work opportunities dry up, separation from their families and peer groups and dwindling hope for their educational and economic advancement. The events surrounding the introduction of CARE also featured a special same-day screening of the documentary on Capitol Hill. The film will be released theatrically in Los Angeles and in New York in July, along with special screenings in 30 cities nationally, and it will premier on Epix TV October 5th.
“I applaud Eva Longoria, Robin Romano and Shine Global for using the power of film to expose the plight of child farmworkers in The Harvest/La Cosecha. As this film documents, children in agriculture too often work in dangerous and exploitive conditions, which are illegal in every other industry,” Congresswoman Roybal-Allard said. “I commend them for their work to shed light on the lives of these children and for their dedication to passing the CARE Act, which would end this unacceptable double standard in our nation’s child labor laws.”
Actor, activist, and philanthropist Eva Longoria said, “I want to commend Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard for her leadership in Congress on the CARE Act. Using my voice to help Shine Global and U. Roberto (Robin) Romano raise awareness about the plight of farmworker children in agriculture has been an incredible honor. This has been one of the most important issues I have had the opportunity to work on.”
“Very few of us understand the true cost of the produce that we buy in grocery stores every day,” said Susan MacLaury, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Shine Global. “While we only pay 80 cents a pound for tomatoes, the child who may have picked them has paid with his or her future.”
Albie Hecht, Co-Founder of Shine Global and Chairman of the Shine Global Board of Directors, said, “Kids who work all day in fields, and have to move every six months to follow the harvest, don’t focus on school. Their friendships suffer. Their physical health suffers. It is very hard for them to grow and develop, and many give up on life dreams or career ambitions. All they see is the harvest.”
While retaining current exemptions for family farms, the CARE Act would bring age and work hour standards for children in agriculture up to the standards for children working in all other industries. That would mean, under CARE, that teenagers would be required to be at least 14 years of age to work in agriculture and at least 18 years of age to perform particularly hazardous work.
In addition to addressing the age and hour requirements for child farmworkers, CARE addresses several other problem areas:
• To serve as a stronger deterrent for employers who violate child labor laws, the bill establishes a minimum penalty for child labor violations and increases the maximum civil monetary penalties from $11,000 to $15,000. The bill 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 provide children with greater protections, CARE raises the labor standards for pesticide exposure to the levels currently enforced by the EPA.
In addition to Eva Longoria and Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, speakers at the press conference included: Thomas A. Saenz, President & General Counsel, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF); Antonia Cortese, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers and co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition; Reid Maki, Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition who released the National Consumers League’s results of a consumer survey on attitudes about child labor in agriculture; and Norma Flores López, Director of the Children in the Fields Campaign at the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), and a former child migrant farmworker.
Visit http://roybal-allard.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=247090 to learn more about the press conference
Visit: http://www.theharvestfilm.com to learn more about child labor in agriculture, about screenings in your area, or how to bring the film to your community
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