Washington – A group of senators claim that a proposal to restrict young workers from performing certain agriculture-related job tasks because of safety concerns would have a detrimental effect on family farms.
The proposed rule (.pdf file), published Sept. 2, would revise child labor regulations in the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit workers younger than 16 from operating most power-driven equipment, and to prohibit any minor from being employed in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm-product raw materials.
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division proposed the rule in light of a high fatality rate among young agricultural workers and recent high-profile deaths of minors on farms. The rule would exempt children working on their parents’ farms, but not those working on farms owned by relatives or jointly owned by their parents and other parties.
In a Dec. 19 letter (.pdf file) to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, 30 senators suggested the rule would negatively impact farms that rely on the labor of extended relatives and the education of future farmers by limiting early farm experience. The senators questioned the data DOL used to make its decision and requested the proposed rule be withdrawn until “reliable evidence and data” backs up the need for the changes.