Republicans Bring Back Child Labor On Tobacco Farms In The South


Republicans have been busy over the past three years while in control of the House distracting Americans from an ever-increasing barrage of bad news about the deplorable conditions in this country. Most Americans are woefully unaware that America is home to the 2nd highest child poverty rate in the world, its infrastructure ranks close to third world nations of Barbados and Haiti, and recently that it is deadly to be an expectant mother in the richest nation on Earth. Nearly all of the news revealing there is nothing exceptional about America has had to come from outside, international groups, and this week another international organization revealed that an industry deeply embedded in the former Confederacy, or America’s third world region, is conducting practices typical of nations without protections for its workers; especially child labor.

Over the past three years Republicans have intimated that as part of their never-ending anti-regulatory crusade, long-standing child labor laws should be abolished to give corporations a dispensable and cheap labor force loosely resembling slave labor the South seceded and waged a Civil War to protect. Although they have not yet succeeded in eliminating child labor laws, an international rights group released a report that should inform Americans what Republicans have in store for America’s children if they are successful. Since Republicans have kept the people distracted with phony scandals, it was left to Human Rights Watch (HRW) to push the federal government to take steps to protect children working on tobacco farms in states such as North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia

The HRW report revealed that children, as young as 7 years old, are working long hours under hazardous conditions in tobacco fields harvesting nicotine and pesticide-laced tobacco leaves and they are demanding the government take action to eliminate the practice and for cigarette makers to push for safety on farms from which they buy tobacco. Since the tobacco industry profits from young children working in fields instead of in classrooms, there is no chance the industry will do much more than feign disgust and ignorance and task Republicans to find another distraction. In fact, Human Rights Watch met with most of the world’s largest cigarette makers to discuss its findings they hoped would push them to embrace or strengthen policies to prevent child labor abuses safely hidden in their supply chains.

According to HRW’s children’s rights researcher and co-author of the damning report, Margaret Wurth, “The U.S. has failed America’s families by not meaningfully protecting child farmworkers from dangers to their health and safety, including on tobacco farms.” The tobacco industry did exactly as expected and said they are concerned about child labor in their supply chains and claimed they developed standards requiring growers to provide a safe work environment for young children, and acknowledged that “This report uncovers serious child labor abuses that should not occur on any farm, anywhere. More work remains to be done to eliminate child and other labor abuses in tobacco growing” according to Philip Morris International CEO Andre Calantzopoulos.

However, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, the Altria Group Inc., said through a spokesman the company has no intention of making any moves to protect the young children being poisoned by nicotine and pesticides because “restricting tobacco work to people 18 and over is really contrary to a lot of the current practices that are in place in the U.S. and is at odds in these communities where family farming is really a way of life.” According to the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, about 736,500 children under 18 worked on U.S. farms in 2012, but conveniently there are no figures for children as young as seven working on tobacco farms. The Human Rights Watch report noted that American agriculture labor laws allow children to work longer hours at younger ages and in more hazardous conditions than children in any other industry, and that children as young as 12 can be hired for unlimited hours on a farm of any size, but there is no minimum age for children to work on small farms.

The Labor Department proposed changing laws to prohibit children under 16 from working on tobacco farms, but big tobacco’s money and influence scuttled the changes in 2012 despite the danger to children as young as seven. Of the over 140 children HRW interviewed throughout 2012 and 2013, three-quarters reported vomiting, nausea, and headaches while working on tobacco farms that are consistent with nicotine poisoning known as Green Tobacco Sickness occurring when workers absorb nicotine through their skin from handling tobacco plants. Most of the children interviewed reported working long hours, often in extreme heat without overtime pay, sufficient breaks, and no adequate protective clothing or gear. One 17-year-old who had worked in tobacco fields since he was 11 said, “The conditions are inhumane and they should improve them,” and that “kids should primarily focus on school and shouldn’t be in the fields; that’s not a place for children.” The tobacco industry, and a Republican Kentucky state legislator, disagree and inferred the government should butt out of the tobacco industry’s business.

Kentucky state Senator Paul Hormback farms about 100 acres of tobacco and said there is no need for further federal regulations to keep his child labor force safe. Hormback parroted the typical Republican response to any regulations meant to protect labor, especially young children’s labor; “People get pretty extreme about trying to protect everybody from everything. It’s hard manual labor, but there’s nothing wrong with hard manual labor.” Hormback is right on both accounts; there is nothing wrong with hard manual labor for adults. The only labor young children should be involved in is working hard in school; not laboring in hazardous conditions to profit the tobacco industry. Also, decent human beings do tend to get pretty extreme about protecting young children from slaving in hazardous conditions, or any conditions for that matter; especially when they are being poisoned by nicotine and pesticides.

Republicans have yearned to abolish child labor laws since they were enacted decades ago because lacking the ability to force indentured servitude on people of color, especially in the former Confederacy, the next best thing is enslaving children as young as seven who have no redress except for an international organization such as Human Rights Watch exposing the hideous practice. Republicans, or their Koch-affiliated tobacco industry money machine, are not going to take any steps to abolish the practice of sending young children to slave in tobacco fields damning report or not. If nothing else, at least Human Rights Watch’s report informs Americans not only of a despicable abuse of young children in former Confederate states, but they revealed what all America’s children have to look forward to when the disease infecting the Southern United States spreads across America and transforms the entire nation into a third world country where children as young as seven are forced into hard manual labor in hazardous conditions.


26 Replies to “Republicans Bring Back Child Labor On Tobacco Farms In The South”

  1. What the hell is the matter with these people.I thought this country had done away with child labor laws , but now read that child labor is alive and doing well in the southern states. It’s no wonder the TEABAGGERS/REPUBLICANS do not want to raise minimum wage. They just want to enslave children that should be getting an education. How has this country been backsliding with out any one noticing, or have we noticed and done nothing? If they insist upon using children for their labor force, we need to quit subsidizing them NOW.

  2. And there is nothing, nothing this fake christian country can do to stop it because our representatives are owned by corporations.

    Stop abortions, kill them in the fields.

  3. I am so angry at our bought and paid for politicians for this situation. When, America, are we going to hold politicians and corporations responsible for the damage they are inflicting upon our society, upon our children, upon the most vulnerable amongst us? What a sorry state of affairs we have here. We are better than this.

  4. This is bullshit more propaganda.. I grew up on a farm in the South that is how we lived and ate was through our tobacco farms, I am an old woman and it never hurt me or mine.. My boys worked tobacco and they are big strong middle aged men… They worked on our farm and were paid a wage just like anyone else we hired.. Nothing we put on the tobacco hurt our kids or us.. This was our cash crop and helped pay for our farm our, other crops, our home and helped feed our kids.. If more kids were put to work instead of becoming pampared brats they might not turn out always being in trouble…Tobacco is a politically incorrect crop these days and most of the south does not even grow it now because the Tobacco companies bought out the allotments and stockpiled yrs worth of tobacco so I know this is bullcrap, Few if any children are working tobacco farms these days…

  5. Philip Morris is also challenging the writ of Pakistan’s governemtn and wants complete freedom to advertise its cigarette to our nation especially our youth. They have filed a case in court of Pakistan that as they are investors in Pakistan so they should be allowed to promote their cigarettes freely in pakistan by all means . Pathetic approach by Philip Morris as they want to destroy our youth. We civi society has decided to launch protests against Philip Morris.

    My complete story on Philip Morris Pakistan

  6. It’s not child labour is being brought back. It has never left the farms. It’s one of the industries that depends on kid’s labour. It is a hell job. Especially detassling corn. It’s one of the reasons why so many farm kids get an education and move away.

  7. Once again we can clearly see how much the geopigs actually care about the children they force women to have.They would love for them to all be little slaves to make their corporate masters happy.

  8. Going to school and getting an education is not becoming a pampered brat.

    I went to school with a number of migrant children when I first moved to South Florida, five and a half decades ago. They were diligent students who wanted an education. Few managed to complete one. Their families were sometimes Ozark white, sometimes Chicano, sometimes Puerto Rican. They underwent the same thing. Usually they struggled into the first or second year of high school, studying during the week, picking pole beans or tomatoes on the weekend. During the latter process, they were exposed to fertilizer dust, coral rock dust, fierce sun, and the residue of insecticides not even on the market now. Between that, regularly having to change schools, and rotten housing, most of them had given up before they were sixteen.

    You are speaking of a family farm that is going out of existence, and still you may have hurt your children. Factory farms are nothing so tender with the children of migrants.

  9. I refer you to the response I gave Carol. In addition, you admit to using children not your own. At present, I will request you both to exculinate your heads.

  10. If they want the government to “butt out” all subsidies should be discontinued. Farm work is hard work, and for a child should not be a priority. A little work never hurt anyone but kids need an education also. Child labor laws were put in place for reason.

  11. I live in a rural tobacco-growing community north of Nashville. Nasty, dirty job that kids should not b performing. No one is a ‘tobacco farmer’ except to get federal dollars. It is actually pathetic the way the system is designed. Most are ‘tenant farmers’ and broke, uneducated rednecks.

  12. Now if people still vote Republican after seeing what they do to our kids then they should be put in this infested dirty tobacco fields.
    This is what you get when these greedy bastards get in power. Everybody get out and vote these clowns out once and for all.
    Now I know the real reason Republicans are against
    abortions they need them to work like slaves in
    their infested dirty tobacco fields.

  13. In Ct., back in the fifties when I was a kid, during the summer kids could work in the tobacco fields to earn money for school clothes and shoes. They would go to the bus stop with lunches in paper bags. It would be around 6am. At around 6 or 7pm, they would be trudging back from the bus stop, filthy and be literately dragging themselves home. At the end of the week, these kids would have $35 in their pockets. I wanted so much to do that. A kid had to be thirteen to be eligible. My parents wouldn’t let me. I thought they were lucky to do that all summer and have all that money. The kind of kid I was, I could have done it. There were no smaller kids and no hours here there was school. I thought it was great, and still do. I worked after school when I was 16, AND ON WEEKENDS AND ALL SUMMER. I noticed as years went by that highschool kids mostly didn’t work anymore. We did it to have our own money because our parents didn’t have the money for all the new things coming out. Transister r…

  14. There’s a difference between learning how to work hard and working in conditions that make you *sick.* There’s a difference between “helping out on the farm” and “being treated as an adult farm-worker.”

    I grew up on a farm, too, and while I helped out with some jobs, my parents were adamant that my education came first. Nor did they saddle me with jobs beyond my age or strength.

    Maybe some of that was because my child-molesting grandfather had my dad driving a tractor and plowing fields at age 8, and doing a lot of other farm work he was much too young to do.

    My dad was also exposed to a lot of dangerous pesticides and herbicides on the farm; now he can barely get around, and they think he may have Parkinson’s—one of the big factors for Parkinson’s is exposure to dangerous chemicals like pesticides/herbicides. They never knew, or learned, safety with that crap.

    There aren’t many small family farms left. Most are very large farms. It’s a different world in farmin…

  15. the righties lost the civil war, but have been undermining the effects of that loss ever since. We still have a system that enslaves people!

  16. Of course they are enslaved. We should be letting them die in the streets like you want. Sorry, but your screed isnt the way the world works. You have been taught well grasshopper to hate the less fortunate while the 1% pull your strings. You are a joke. Move along

  17. Really? Can you possibly discern the difference between working long hours in a poisonous environment to picking rocks? Please come with a valid arguement

  18. Well you can accidently put your eye out with a rock slipping out of your hand. My eye Oh good golly molly my eye

  19. Yes there is always that. I worked as a kid picking rocks. At 15 I worked on a 5000 acre ranch and my family farm. I know rocks!

  20. Poor @joeb, just another caucasian republican pining away for the sick twisted days of yester year, as I stated earlier, if you listen to anyone’s post long enough you can usually assume their race, gender, political leanings and undoubtedly their education. @joeb, is a dinosaur that truly believes america was better when white dominated everything and everybody! Where busting your back for ”THE MAN” was more honorable than getting a solid education, where being a RURAL individual was far better than those city slicker college educated YANKEES! where the south actually won the civil war!?? REALLY @joeb, @joeb, is a worn out old fool, who listens to limbaugh and takes that KKK recruiter seriously! @joeb, getting talking points from a grand wizard just makes you sound ridiculous! leave political talk to the adults, your still mired in the earlier 20th century!!

  21. This is a sad state of affairs, then and now. I guess we aren’t the greatest nation in the world after all.

  22. You are misinformed. Tobacco growing states have Democratic Governors. The governments of these states want to have as healthy an economy as possible so it is important to have tobacco farming continue ( in their minds)
    Blaming the Republicans is stupid. Republicans in general want to keep the federal government out of our everyday lives. Family farms have been attacked and almost destroyed by so many laws, rules, etc. I am in full agreement that children and labor in the fields have no place in the USA but understand small family farms can only survive if family members work together. It wasn’t that many years ago that the school year was adjusted to not conflict with the harvest as all hands were needed to bring in the goods.
    Tobacco is only one part of this picture but blaming the ills of this on Republicans is ridiculous

  23. “Republicans in general want to keep the federal government out of our everyday lives.”

    Obviously today is your first day in America. Every local bill passed at state and local levels in to put more government in via the religious fundies. Laws against gays, laws against women. Republicans in your bedroom pushing the religion du jour hate screed of the week.

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