Today, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), both members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the bicameral Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act, legislation aimed at holding corporations accountable for the exploitation of children and workers in the food industry. The bill prohibits the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from contracting with companies that have committed egregious labor law violations and/or have contracted with vendors that have incurred, and failed to rectify, serious worker or labor infractions. U.S. Representative Greg Casar (D-TX) introduced companion legislation in the House.
“No child should be made to do hazardous work—but as recent reporting has shown, that remains all too common in the United States,” said Senator Welch. “We must use every tool at our disposal to end child labor, and that’s why I am proud to join Sen. Booker to introduce the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act and leverage the power of federal contracts to hold corporations accountable for these shameful practices.”
“We must hold companies accountable if they violate labor laws and exploit workers, including vulnerable children,”said Senator Booker. “Companies that benefit from federal contracts have a responsibility to ensure that their workers, whether direct employees or contract workers, are treated fairly and safely. My bill will ensure companies are barred from participating in federal contracts if they engage in labor law violations that include the use of child labor. This sends a clear message to corporations that they cannot put their profits above the health, safety, and well-being of workers, especially children.”
“Today, we’re seeing so many children—especially migrant children—forced to work unsafe, dangerous, and overnight jobs by some of the biggest corporations in our country,” said Representative Casar. “It’s unacceptable. That’s why we’re introducing the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act to end child labor by ensuring that if companies want USDA dollars, then they shouldn’t break federal labor law. We can care for all children, and make sure they can get the education, food, housing, and development opportunities they need.”
The Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act would:
- Require companies competing for contracts with Department of Agriculture to disclose labor and worker safety infractions by the company itself as well as by any of their contractors in the preceding three years.
- Empower the Secretary of Labor to determine corrective measures for a company and/or their contractors to remain eligible for the USDA contracts.
- Require the Secretary of Labor to prepare a list of companies that are ineligible for USDA contracts for that year based on serious, repeated, or pervasive violations of labor laws.
- Establish transparency measures to ensure USDA and DOL compliance.
“Adequately cracking down on the corporations who have violated human rights by engaging in egregious child labor violations will require using every tool at our disposal, and the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act, which Senator Booker introduced today, is an important part of that effort,” said Marc Perrone, UFCW International President. “Many of these employers caught employing child labor are proven bad actors who have engaged in a host of other violations including vicious union-busting tactics and the exploitation of workers. This bill will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are never used to fund child labor violators and goes a long way in ensuring our government will seek to only do business with companies that pay workers fairly, create a safe workplace, and allow workers’ voices on the job.”
“Nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who care for children are stunned and horrified by the recent reports of the unconscionable exploitation of children in dangerous jobs under shocking conditions the food industry,” said National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) President Jennifer Sonney, PhD, APRN, PPCNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN. “Congress must take action to protect the health of these children and stop those responsible for these abuses. NAPNAP strongly supports Senator Booker’s “Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act” and urges its immediate passage.”
“American Grassfed Association believes that USDA should utilize its procurement and regulatory power to buy from local farmers and hold accountable multinational corporations that manipulate prices and abuse workers. Our hard-earned tax dollars should be spent buying food from American farmers, ranchers, and businesses playing by the rules and supporting their local communities. This bill is a meaningful step in that direction,” said Carrie Balkcom, Executive Director, American Grassfed Association.
The bill builds on President Obama’s 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order and a February 2022 proposed rule by the Biden Administration. This proposed rule requires USDA contractors to comply with a wide range of labor and employment laws and regulations to do business with the USDA.
The bill is endorsed by: The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Economic Policy Institute, Oxfam America, National Employment Law Project, Better Balance, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign, Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, Farm Aid, National Immigration Project, Witness at the Border, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, ImmSchools, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, Thousand Hills Lifetime Grazed, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, American Grassfed Association, Food Chain Workers Alliance, GC Resolve, Pesticide Action Network North America, Food & Water Watch, Mercy For Animals, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA, RuralOrganizing.org, Education Fund, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Union of Concerned Scientists, HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance, New England Farmers Union, Neighboring Food Co-op Association, Common Ground Producers and Growers, Inc., Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Nebraska State AFL-CIO, Heartland Workers Center, Nebraska Appleseed, The Advocates for Human Rights, The Children’s Partnership, Children at Risk, North Carolina Justice Center, Church Women United in New York State, Farmworker Association of Florida, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), Michigan Farmers Union, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center, Migrants and Minorities Alliance, Human Rights Initiative, Children of Smithfield, La Semilla Food Center, Mothers and Others, Justice and Mercy for Immigrants, and Centro Hispano Comunitario de Nebraska.
The House companion bill is cosponsored by: U.S. Representatives Becca Balint (VT-AL), Shontel Brown (OH-11), Nikki Budzinski (IL-13), Cori Bush (MO-01), David Cicilline (RI-01), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Chris Deluzio (PA-17), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Valerie Foushee (NC-04), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Val Hoyle (OR-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Jonathan Jackson (IL-01), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), Summer Lee (PA-12), Seth Magaziner (RI-02), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Rob Menendez (NJ-08), Ted Lieu (CA-36), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), and Paul Tonko (NY-20).
The full text of the bill can be found here.