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Children Who Labor in Fields: Yes, Here

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Credit Daniela Tieni

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To the Editor:

Re “A Ban on Child Labor in Tobacco Fields” (editorial, Dec. 29):

An investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee in the early 20th century, Lewis Hine, traversed the United States capturing the plight of child laborers in canneries, coal mines and textile factories. The images seized the country’s attention and provided the impetus for the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, effectively ending child labor in every industry except agriculture, where minors continue toiling for hours.

Planting, tending to and harvesting tobacco is extremely dangerous for child laborers. Our nation’s failure in banning children from the fields that satiate our appetites and addictions is criminal.

For years, Big Tobacco denied the harmful effects of its product. It now stands guilty of asphyxiating the lives of children toiling amid its lucrative commodity.

I stand with your editorial board. Our political leaders must act.

FRANK J. PEREZ
Hollister, Calif., Dec. 29, 2014

To the Editor:

Your editorial is very much appreciated and on target. But laws are only as good as their enforcement, and for years federal and state oversight has been severely underfunded.

Therefore, in the tobacco fields, in the citrus groves, and in the tomato and onion fields, relatively strong laws are ignored, and thousands of children remain victims of pesticides, unsanitary working conditions and general work abuse.

To a large degree these children carry the economic well-being of growers on their backs. Unless funding is given back to enforcement, young people will remain at risk in the fields, new laws notwithstanding.

JEFFREY NEWMAN
Executive Director
National Child Labor Committee
New York, Dec. 29, 2014

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