Child Labor in the United States

File:Pig carcasses in a Los Angeles meat packing plant.jpg

Workers with pig carcasses at Los Angeles meat packing plant (1945), Source, 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 [1].

Few of us would imagine that child labor practices are still engaged in today.  Unfortunately, that is the case.

Cleaning Slaughterhouses

The Labor Dept. in December settled a civil suit against Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) for the violation of child labor laws [2].

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” [3].  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].

Labor Trafficking

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 Connection

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.

[1]  Wikipedia, “The Jungle”,

[2]  NBC News, “Food sanitation company accused of employing at least 31 children on graveyard shifts in slaughterhouses” by Julianne McShane, 11/11/22,

[3]  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,

[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,

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.





Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Community, Emotional Abuse, human trafficking, Justice, Law, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Slavery

14 responses to “Child Labor in the United States

  1. 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.

  2. Are we really so busy not to have noticed? Anna you are such a blessing.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. So sad that there’s this going on even in the US

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