Thursday, August 5, 2021

Play

A new study says current federal limits for exposure to wireless radiation should be hundreds of times lower for children, and President Biden calls out the governors of Texas, Florida for "bad health policy."

Play

Analysts warn the Delta variant could dampen economic recovery, former president Trump attempts to keep his federal tax returns away from Congress after a court ruling, and Mexico sues several U.S. gun makers.

Kids Toiling in America's Tobacco Fields

Play

Thursday, November 20, 2014   

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Children half the smoking age are reportedly laboring in tobacco fields across the burley belt.

It’s hard to tell how many or how old they are, but one study found one in 10 working in North Carolina's tobacco is younger than 18.

Baldemar Velasquez, president of the AFL-CIO's Farm Labor Organizing Committee, says the pattern is similar in Kentucky.

He says children work to help their families get by, typically starting in their early teens, but sometimes much younger.

"Seven, eight on up,” he says. “We've seen kids this summer that were 13, 15, and they'd tell us they were working in tobacco for seven years, five years."

The major tobacco companies all have policies against child labor, but a federal loophole intended for farm families leaves the practice in a legal gray area.

Most growers insist they obey the law, to the best of their ability.

Velasquez says he worked in tobacco as a teen – in fact, low wages meant he started working in other crops with his family at six.

He says, “It was either that or not eating."

The families, often here illegally, are at the mercy of labor contractors, he says.

And economic pressures mean farm owners and cigarette companies look the other way when crew leaders break the law.

"Doesn't matter to the crew leader, the labor contractor, because he gets the money from the harvest,” Velasquez explains. “He doesn't care how small the hands are that are putting the cut tobacco on the trailer, as long as the acres get done."

According to a separate report from Human Rights Watch, half of tobacco workers make below minimum wage.

It found 12-hour days are common, and 16-hour days not unusual.

The reports say the children are especially vulnerable to green tobacco sickness – basically nicotine poisoning.

Velasquez says the victims get dizzy and nauseous – like a non-smoker with the blood nicotine of a pack-a-day habit.

"When you try to eat, nothing tastes right,” he says. “Workers say they try to drink milk 'cause it's the only thing that they can consume when you get really, really sick."

The Human Rights Watch report says half of tobacco workers make below minimum wage.






get more stories like this via email

In the United States, home-care workers, mostly women and people of color, earn on average only $12 an hour. (Adobe Stock)

Health and Wellness

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Advocates for people with disabilities in New York are pushing for the federal budget resolution to include $400 billion in Medicaid …


Environment

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Freshwater mussels are key to keeping the Chesapeake Bay watershed clean, and with more than half of all species now facing …

Social Issues

BUFFALO, Wyo. -- The doors of five historic community halls across Johnson and Sheridan counties were opened this past weekend for 15 people curious …


Over the past six decades, there has been a steady increase in the number of fires in the western United States, according to NASA. (Adobe Stock)

Environment

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Massive wildfires in the Western U.S. and Canada have triggered poor air quality in North Carolina over the past few weeks, and …

Environment

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Farmworkers are in Olympia today, calling for stronger protections from extreme heat. The farmworkers union Familias Unidas por la …

A video from July shows sockeye salmon with red lesions and fungus because of the Columbia River's hot water. (Conrad Gowell/Columbia Riverkeeper)

Environment

BOISE, Idaho -- Rallies are taking place across the Northwest to support salmon, which face dire conditions in the Columbia River Basin. Saturday…

Environment

IXONIA, Wis. -- The public comment period has ended, but opponents of proposed natural gas storage facilities in southeastern Wisconsin still hope to …

Environment

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvanians are growing worried about the environmental consequences of natural-gas drilling in the state, according to a new …

 

Phone: 303.448.9105 Toll Free: 888.891.9416 Fax: 208.247.1830 Your trusted member and audience-supported news source since 1996 Copyright 2021