Clarion, Pa.- Child labor, while often hushed and touted as a thing of the past, is still found in today’s highly advanced world and global economy.
On Monday Nov. 10, as part of Clarion’s University annual Equity Week, the Office of Social Equity and the Martin Luther King Committee cast the spotlight on the contemporary state of child labor in showing “The Harvest,” an award-winning documentary by U. Roberto Romano.
The gripping and moving film depicts the lives of three children and their impoverished families as they move from state to state during harvest time to find some semblance of meaningful work.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, implemented in 1938 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda, enforced various standards for labor at the federal level, including workplace safety rules and child labor protections.
Unfortunately for the roughly 400,000 child workers in the United States, these protections do not equally extend to the agricultural sector.
This means there is no easily accessible and discernible recourse for the dangerous conditions these migrants and their children are working in, like the exposure to harmful chemicals or lengthy shifts in the blistering heat.
Due to these conditions and the demonstrable lack of protections, the fatality rate for these workers is about six times that of any other industry, with children accounting for 20 percent of all deaths on farms.
“The Harvest” portrays the lives of three of these child workers.
These children are afforded little chances to change their socioeconomic circumstance and invariably succumb to a life of constant migration and profound insecurity.
These migrations are chronicled throughout the documentary, following the children moving from state to state to live in rundown camps while looking for work.
Sophomore Richard DeMark said that the plight of these impoverished child workers was “very touching and really opened my eyes. It introduced me to a world that I had no idea even existed.”
Few people know of the continued existence of child labor, and even fewer fully understand the extent to which this child labor is relevant in today’s economic environment.
In offering this film, the Office of Social Equity and the MLK Committee hope to focus awareness on this issue and to bring to light during Clarion’s annual Equity Week.