Thursday, May 31, 2012

For shame!

It would be good to hear Dolores Huerta explain why she accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama only a month after his administration bent to agribusiness demands & withdrew a proposal to the Department of Labor to implement safety laws for 800,000 child farm workers not currently protected by child labor laws.They are exposed to pesticides (often sprayed directly by planes as they work), snake & insect bites, razor-sharp tools & lack of safety equipment, dangerous farm machinery (without safety devices like seat belts or roll-over bars), extreme heat, chemicals & explosives, work at extreme heights in silos & grain storage facilities, work in manure pits (with E. coli contamination). Exploitation of child labor is rampant: age restrictions are ignored; children often work 10 or more hours a day, 5 to 7 days a week, & at the peak of harvest, daylight to dusk; they are paid less than the minimum wage; they are not provided with drinking water & toilets. As a result accidents are frequent, maiming common, deaths gruesome. Farm worker children have high incidences of pesticide-related respiratory & digestive diseases, headaches, burning eyes, as well as brain damage, & death. Long-term pesticide exposure is associated with cancer, neurologic problems, & reproductive problems. Dolores Huerta has a proud history of organizing farm workers & co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. She also has a long, regrettable association with the Democratic Party. That she would accept this award from Obama just after he denied protection to children farm workers is shameful & there is no nice way to put that.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

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