As reported last week, the Department of Labor (finally) decided to listen to the agriculture community and pull the new child labor regulations that would prohibit any child under 18 from doing specific chores on the farm.
Well, the response keeps coming. As you can imagine, agriculture organizations and leaders were thrilled by the news. On the other hand, some self-proclaimed labor groups were not as pleased. I highly doubt anyone is surprised by their outcry, but I think their response is interesting.
As reported in Business Week:
“Reid Maki, coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, said the Labor Department’s sudden decision late Thursday to withdraw the proposed rules means more children will die in farm accidents that could have been prevented.”
Or how about the comments of Zama Coursen-Neff from Human Rights Watch, where she said:
“Instead of protecting child farm workers, the Labor Department will look the other way when children get crushed, suffocated, and poisoned on the job.”
Coursen-Neff also believed the real victims here were the children of migrant workers, who “are sickened by toxic pesticides, suffocated in grain elevators or maimed by heavy farm machinery. ” (Story here.)
While I don’t doubt the sincerity of such comments, I’m glad common sense prevailed. Yes, accidents happen. When they do happen, it is tragic; no one wants to see that. Certainly, if the farm was negligent in some way then there should be consequences. But barring that, little Bobby should be allowed to do farm chores.
Besides, how likely is it that a child will be killed in a car accident compared to being injured on the farm? Or what about the chances of kids getting injured while doing all sorts of typical child activities – riding bikes, swimming, playing football, etc?
Sure, if we don’t let our kids anywhere on the farm, there is a 100% chance that they will not be injured on the farm.
But there is always risk in everything. There isn’t much to living if you live in a bubble.
The fact is, the benefits for children working side by side with mom and dad (whether the parents own the farm or just work for the farm) outweigh the risks. Kids are taught responsibility and hard work. They also benefit from spending time with mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, uncles, aunts, and neighbors — or, people that work hard for a living and are passionate about what they do.
That example is a lot more important than sticking your kid with a babysitter, setting them in front of the TV, or allowing them free reign of the internet. If we instilled these types of values, and not the prevalent “give me, give me, give me” attitude, perhaps we could avoid some of our larger social ills. Maybe more children would actually benefit from having to do a little bit of work these days.