Rep. Ruiz Introduces Legislation to Raise Labor Standards and Protections for Farmworker Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D., CA-25, is keeping an ever-watchful eye out for farmworker children.

Agriculture is the only industry with 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 school. According to the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, every day, 33 children are injured while working on U.S. farms. What’s more, a recent GAO report found that more than half of work-related fatalities for children happen in the agriculture sector.
To address this, Ruiz introduced the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE) Act of 2023, which would raise national labor standards for farmworker children to the same level set for children in all other occupations.

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. Among its other provisions, the bill would also establish a minimum penalty for child labor violations, increase the maximum civil monetary penalties and maximum criminal penalties for child labor violations, and provide children with greater protections against pesticide exposure.

“Farm labor is incredibly dangerous work with one of the highest occupational injury rates in our nation. In fact, every three days, a child employee dies while working in agriculture,” Ruiz said in a statement “Despite these dangerous conditions, agriculture is the only industry with little to no protections for the 400,000 young children who work in this industry every day. As the son of farmworkers, I’m working to change that. My bill, the CARE Act, would raise labor standards for child farmworkers across the country, protecting their health, safety, and overall well-being. This legislation will bring much-needed parity to farmworkers, advancing equity for the families and workers who help put food on our tables and play an essential role in our economy every day.”

“Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc. supports the introduction of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE Act) as a much-needed step in strengthening labor protections for children, especially girls, employed in agriculture work,” said Mily Trevino-Sauceda, Executive Director, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc. “Currently, minors (children of farmworkers and also youth under the age of 18) are not offered the same protections as youth who are employed in non-agricultural employment while also experiencing additional challenges attending school. Children are commonly exposed to extreme weather, dangerous machinery, pesticides, harassment, and exploitation. Without uniform age requirements, reduced hour limits, adequate labor protections, and tailored safety standards like the ones proposed in the CARE Act, children will remain vulnerable to abuse in the workplace and risk potential harm to their health.”

“As the County Superintendent of Schools, ensuring equitable and inclusive opportunities for all students is one of my highest priorities,” said Edwin Gomez, Ed.D., Riverside County Superintendent of Schools. “As part of my Equity & Inclusive Practices Initiative, RCOE works to promote the full range of inclusivity and equity within the public school system, focusing on diverse groups of students that historically have faced barriers to long-term success in achieving their educational goals. The CARE Act would be an important step to ensuring that migrant students have the opportunity to achieve their educational goals, increasing opportunities for students and their families.”

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;
  • Establish a minimum penalty for child labor violations;
  • Increase the maximum civil monetary penalties and maximum criminal penalties for child labor violations;
  • Provide children with greater protection against pesticide exposure in agriculture by raising the labor protections to EPA standards.
  • Include reporting requirements on work-related injuries and serious illnesses.

The CARE Act introduced by Congressman Ruiz is cosponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-07), Rep. Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), Rep, Jim McGovern (MA-02), Rep. Katie Porter (CA-47), Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Rep. Barbra Lee (CA-12), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (NY-14), Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03), Rep. Nydia Vasquez (NY-07), Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Rep. Nanette Barragan (CA-44), Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Adam Schiff (CA-30), Rep. Danny Davis (IL-07), Rep. Andre Carson (IN-07), Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26), Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Rep. Mark Takano (CA-39), Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-52), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07).

The CARE Act is endorsed by 17 local groups who focus on education, health care, and labor. For more information on the CARE Act, click here. 


Image Sources

  • Rep. Ruiz and Farmworkers: Rep. Ruiz