March 9, 2023
From Northwest Animal Rights Network

NARN Statement on Use of Child Labor in the U.S.

According to a recent exposé by the New York Times, the number of underage workers in factories and construction sites has increased substantially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies are easily exploiting displaced children vulnerable to indentured servitude and enslavement because more children are entering the U.S. without a parent or legal guardian and there is little government oversight of children released from U.S. custody. Companies are flagrantly disregarding child labor laws and seemingly setting labor rights for major sectors of the U.S. workforce back nearly a hundred years. 

Children as young as twelve have been found working in construction, food packing, and slaughterhouse jobs, among others. In the agriculture industry, children are found working in meatpacking, on commercial egg farms, running milking machines, and laboring out in the fields. In the dairy industry, the injury rate is twice the national average. Aside from the most recent surge in illegal child labor, agriculture has always been a huge exploiter of labor performed by displaced people from south of the U.S. border, and children are uniquely legally exploited in agricultural field work.  

The U.S. knows who these children are, as the government placed them into sponsored guardianship. Some of the sponsors demand repayment of expenses from the children, who often enter the U.S. in order to send money back to their families in their countries of origin. Sponsors are required to send children to school, though some refuse to do so, instead forcing children to work long hours in dangerous conditions. Some children are forced to juggle a full work schedule while going to school. 

Child workers are unable to focus on their education. They must also navigate the brutality of our immigration system, all while suffering from fatigue and serious health consequences of working so many hours. Children have suffered injuries, and some have died from unsafe working conditions.

What can you do?

  1. Hold companies that participate in illegal labor practices accountable. Boycott as many of the following companies as you can that benefit from illegal child labor, indentured servitude, or labor from enslaved people. Hold these companies to the promises they’ve made or may make regarding labor policy and practices. Some of the companies profiled by the New York Times include: 
  • Hearthside Food Solutions (contracts for food companies)
  • General Mills (Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Nature Valley, etc.)
  • J. Crew
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Whole Foods
  • Fruit of the Loom
  • Ford
  • General Motors
  • PepsiCo (Quaker Oats, Frito-Lay, etc.)
  • Companies who use Forge Industrial Staffing agency
  • Hyundai (outside resource)
  • Kia
  • Farm Fresh Foods
  • JBS (meat processing company)
  • Packers Sanitation Services (outside resource)
    • See a list of food brands that had used Packers Sanitation Services and have been recently cited by the Dept. of Labor for the use of child labor here.

People may write directly to the above companies’ customer relations departments demanding changes in their respective labor policies and oversight. You can also post on these companies’ social media pages, publicly demanding accountability and change. 

Don’t forget to post about your boycotts and outreach on your social media channels or share your actions with friends and family! 

  1. Support organizations working to combat human trafficking, child labor, and the enslavement of humans. Check out the work of the Public Justice Food Project, the Food Empowerment Project, Food Chain Workers Alliance, and the Child Labor Coalition. Consider donating your time and/or resources to their causes.
  2. Close to half of unaccompanied minors are traveling from Guatemala. Educate yourself on how U.S. foreign and trade policies have harmed Guatemala’s economy and its people. Do the same for the rest of Central and South America.
  3. Go vegan! Do not support the animal flesh, egg, or dairy industries. Additionally, know where your produce is coming from and make sure the producing company does not participate in exploitative labor practices. Buy local whenever possible.
  4. Support organizations working for humane immigration policies, such as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the International Refugee Assistance Project
  5. Get to know local and regional organizations advocating for just food systems and supporting deliberately disadvantaged communities, including Our Place Nuestra Casa Multicultural Center, United Farm Workers, Community to Community, and the Latino Community Fund.