Sunday, August 12, 2012

Can the US Congress get more debased!?

Last April, the US Department of Labor (DOL) abandoned proposed safety rules for child farm workers & said the rules would not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration. The safety rules (which the DOL spent over a year developing) would have governed 800,000 farm workers under the age of 16 not currently protected by child labor laws & would not prohibit them from working in agriculture, as they are in other industries. The rules would have banned children from operating tractors & other power-driven machines; restricted children working in stockyards with bulls & other potentially dangerous animals & in manure pits (with E. coli contamination); prohibited children working in extreme heat & heights in silos & grain storage facilities. Children would however continue to be exposed to pesticides, often sprayed directly by planes as they work (& pesticide-related respiratory, digestive, neurological, & reproductive problems & diseases, brain damage, cancer); snake & insect bites; razor-sharp tools & lack of safety equipment; explosives; lack of drinking water & toilets; less than minimum wage; 10 or more hour days, 5 to 7 days a week. Accidents are frequent, maiming common, deaths gruesome. On July 24th, to make sure those safety rules aren’t resurrected in some other venue, the US House of (mis)Representatives barred the DOL from any future use of the regulations, giving the force of law (& shame) to the decision by the DOL & Obama administration. To make sure they can’t be held accountable for their vote, the (mis)representatives took a voice vote, which is not recorded. Only one lawmaker spoke in opposition (Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-CA, emboldened since she is not running for reelection). Identical legislation is proposed in the US Senate (the other half of the binary rogues' gallery) which is certain to pull the same stunt. Is any further proof required the US political system is bankrupt!? (Photo of US child farm worker; photographer not identified)

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