Workers with pig carcasses at Los Angeles meat packing plant (1945), Source https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/ark:/21198/zz0002qn8w, Author Los Angeles Daily News (CC-BY-4.0 International)
The term “child labor” conjures up images of 19th Century sweat shops. If meat packing plants are mentioned, some of us may recall Upton Sinclair’s 1905 expose The Jungle .
Few of us would imagine that child labor practices are still engaged in today. Unfortunately, that is the case.
The Labor Dept. in December settled a civil suit against Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) for the violation of child labor laws .
Investigators had found some 50 children (one as young as 13 y.o.) employed by PSSI cleaning slaughterhouses at 5 different locations in Nebraska and Michigan. An earlier investigation in Kansas was dropped when necessary records could not be obtained.
“Oppressive Child Labor” Standards
The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits “oppressive child labor” . Labor Dept. regulations identify many positions in slaughterhouses and meat packing plants as hazardous for minors.
In particular, the “kill floors” in meat packing facilities are known to have slippery surfaces from animal fat, hot water, and soap [4A]. Though safety equipment is required for their use, strong cleaning chemicals can cause caustic burns from exposure.
No Penalties or Fines
Despite all this, the Labor Dept. issued no penalties or fines to PSSI [4B].
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of Homeland Security, is now investigating whether these children — most unable to speak English — were provided false identification papers and forced by traffickers to work for PSSI [4C].
Interest was triggered by the fact a number of the children were so called “unaccompanied migrants”, who had been sent across the border without their parents, then matched with sponsors.
Rural counties across the country have become home to many such minors [4D]. Often, these counties have few governmental or philanthropic resources (something that has not escaped traffickers).
It is said that the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. For the sake of these children and others like them, we can only hope that is true.
 Wikipedia, “The Jungle”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle
 NBC News, “Food sanitation company accused of employing at least 31 children on graveyard shifts in slaughterhouses” by Julianne McShane, 11/11/22, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/food-sanitation-company-accused-employing-least-31-children-graveyard-rcna56758.
 Labor Dept., “Fact Sheet #2A: Child Labor Rules for Employing Youth in Restaurants and Quick-Service Establishments under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)” by US Labor and Hour Division, July 2010, https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whdfs2a.pdf.
[4A through 4D] NBC News, “The federal government is investigating the possible human trafficking of children who cleaned slaughterhouses” by Laura Strickler and Julia Ainsley, 1/19/23, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/feds-dhs-investigating-human-trafficking-children-slaughterhouses-rcna66081.
Canada has agreed to settle a $2.9 billion class action suit for the loss of indigenous language and culture resulting from its mandatory residential school system. Many of the Native American children involved sustained emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well.
FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com
18 responses to “Child Labor in the United States”
😱 I did not know this.
Anna, I “like” you bringing awareness to such issues but this situation is awful.
God, have mercy on the children and bring justice to the traffickers.
It is heartbreaking whenever children are exploited. That this should be happening in a nation of such vast wealth to children whose parents’ goal for them was a better life is beyond tragic.
Are we really so busy not to have noticed? Anna you are such a blessing.
You are very kind, Marilee. Sadly, news of these critical issues is often overshadowed by political wrangling and celebrity trivia.
But these happenings are under the noses of plenty of adults who also work in these places or even take mass transit with kids who get off at these stops repetitively. We are so flawed and I guess in the end, it is as you say that we are too busy on nonesense.
I have been thinking about how many young young ones are getting into our country by illegal means and will be taken advantage of easily in business such as you wrote about. Through no means of their own they will be the most taken advantage of. Keep up the good fight thanks for this information, it needs to get out.
Thank you so much for your concern!
Bisher wusste ich davon nichts. Wie gut, dass Du viele dieser Missverhältnisse zur Kenntnis bringst, auch wenn es Dir sicher in der Seele leid tut, so etwas zu wissen und nicht wirklich helfen zu können.
Ganz liebe Grüße und weiterhin viel Mut
Ihnen gilt mein tiefster Dank, liebe Freundin. ❤
So sad that there’s this going on even in the US
Dear Anna, thank you for raising awareness about important issues. There seems to be a problem with WP, the blogs I follow would always appear in my email for new posts, but for some time I did not get any, even though the blogs had new posts.. I went to WP settings and it seems email notices were turned off, and that was not something I had done.. Also when I tried to reblog your recent posts, that is not working either..
You share valuable information, so I hope they work out these glitches that seem to happen selectively across social media.. God Bless
Thank you for letting me know, Mary. Computer issues of one kind or another are a constant challenge. Those can be terribly frustrating. When the reblog function fails, I usually copy the first paragraph or two of the post I want to reblog then give the web address of the post. That way, viewers interested to read the full post can find it for themselves. Hope that helps! God bless you, too.
Desperate children who must find a means of bringing home money are some of the most vulnerable in our society. Their options are so few which is why so many of them willingly risk life and limb to help out their poor families.
Whether working for an illegal sub-standard wage, selling drugs, prostituting themselves, stealing, or a host of other illegal activities, there is no shortage of “opportunity” for them.
Of course, the long term effects of this lifestyle guarantees the child will likely forever be trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty and despair.
We, the most prosperous nation that ever existed, have the blood of many innocents on our hands.
You are so right, Ron.