Child Slave Labor Still Exists in America Today
by Laura Gove
Although many people acknowledge that child slave labor is a problem in foreign countries many do not realize that it goes on right here in the United States. Child slave labor has been used in more than two dozen companies in this country including Campbell Soup Co., Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurants, ConAgra, Costco, H.J. Heinz, Newman's Own, J.C. Penney, Pillsbury, Sears and Wal-Mart. Most of these companies say they are looking into the situations and would never deliberately buy products that were being made by children.
Children are forced to start working as young as age four in fields and factories. They often work eight hour days for wages much less than the minimum wage. It was observed that on farms illegal child labor is most often found, including the most extreme cases: the youngest workers struggling through the longest hours for the least pay.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, was declared by Congress in order to stop the problems of child slave labor. This act set age restrictions such as, children must wait until age sixteen to work in factories or during school hours and children under fourteen are barred from most jobs except farming.
In most cases child slaves are recruited from foreign countries and promised all of the amenities of the U.S. - education, employment, and freedom. Once they arrive they are often tricked into paying traveling expense fees which quickly leave them in debt. In other cases, slaves from other countries travel with their masters to the United States. Many of the parents of these children encourage the work because they want more for their children than they themselves had.
Child slave labor in the United States is often hard to detect mainly because slaveholders range from lawyers to pharmacists to child welfare works to teachers. Slave owners regions, age and income are usually very different as well. Therefore, owners benefit from the free labor and also from the limited risk that there is in being caught. A new law was passed in 2000, The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. This law provides a basis to charge perpetrators but it is difficult to win these cases because they must actually be discovered. Law enforcement officials are also not trained as well as they should be on how to detect cases of indentured servitude.
Fortunately, awareness of this horrific problem is being raised. Many groups such as the American Anti-Slavery Group, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, the Human Rights Law Group and the Campaign for Migrant Domestic Workers Rights help to raise awareness of slavery within the United States and also help former slaves to speak out about their own experiences. There are also several websites which show graphic pictures and descriptions of life as a slave.
Reinhardt, Dorothy. Modern-Day Slavery in America. World & I, Feb2001, Vol. 16 Issue 2, p52, 6p, 3c.
Pasztor, Eileen Mayers; McFadden, Emily Jean, Child Labor: A Forgotten Focus on Child Welfare. Child Welfare, Sep/Oct2001, Vol. 80 Issue 5, p611, 12p.
"Ending Child Labor." Time for Kids, 9/20/96, Vol. 2 Issue 2, p4, 2p, 2c.