(Extensions of Remarks - December 09, 2003)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2498-E2499]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                            HON. TOM LANTOS

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                        Monday, December 8, 2003

  Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, at the start of the 20th 
century the state of child labor conditions in our country was so 
deplorable that it was not uncommon for children to be working 60 or 
70-hour weeks

[[Page E2499]]

in the hardest forms of labor--in our nation's mines, mills and in the 
farm fields. It was these conditions that the National Consumers League 
was created to alleviate.
  Through the hard work and dedication of its members, the National 
Consumers League was able to secure the passage of the Fair Labor 
Standards Act in 1938. This monumental legislation has been the 
backbone for ensuring that American workers are treated fairly and 
humanely. Specifically, the legislation enacted sweeping reforms to the 
use of child labor in our country that were designed to prevent the 
exploitation of youth workers.
  In the 60 years since the passage of this extraordinary legislation 
our economy has changed dramatically. It is appalling to learn that in 
our great country, the occupational injury rate for children and teens 
is more than twice as high than it is for adults. In fact, the National 
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 
every year 230,000 teens are injured on the job. I am certain that all 
of my colleagues will agree with me that these statistics are a 
national disgrace and are totally unacceptable for a civilized, 
advanced society such as ours.
  That is why I introduced H.R. 3139, the Youth Worker Protection Act, 
a bill that will modernize America's child labor laws. I am also 
honored to report that in 2003, just like 1938, the National Consumers 
League was instrumental in the drafting of this legislation and I am 
confident that with their support we will be successful in securing its 
  I am delighted that Linda Golodner, President of the National 
Consumers League and a tireless advocate to advance progressive chance 
in our country was standing next to me when I introduced the Youth 
Worker Protection Act. Her eloquence on the need for reform to our 
nation's child labor laws should be shared with our Congressional 
colleagues, Mr. Speaker, and I therefore request that her statement be 
placed in the Congressional Record.

                      Statement of Linda Golodner

       Thank you for coming today. I'm Linda Golodner, president 
     of the National Consumers League and co-chair of the Child 
     Labor Coalition. I am joined today by Congressman Tom Lantos 
     and Maggie Carey from Beverly, Massachusetts.
       More than one-hundred years ago, Florence Kelley, first 
     executive secretary of the National Consumers League, led a 
     national effort to press Congress for tough laws to protect 
     working children. Her goal was achieved in 1938 with the 
     passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes child 
     labor provisions. The Act addresses child labor and the 
     workplace realities of the early 20th century--not the early 
     21st century. The early reformers would I am sure find it 
     inconceivable that these hard fought child labor laws have 
     not been revisited since that time. Updates to the Fair Labor 
     Standards Act are long overdue. Our nation's most vulnerable 
     workers--many of whom are too young to have a driver's 
     license--deserve 21st-century protection from unsafe and 
     inappropriate working conditions.
       The National Consumers League and our more than 40 member 
     organizations in the Child Labor Coalition have been working 
     since for almost 15 years to protect the health, education, 
     and safety of working minors. We have advocated for stronger 
     child labor enforcement and for higher penalties for those 
     who violate the law--especially those that result in a young 
     worker's serious injury or fatality. We have focused on child 
     labor reform that reflects the realities of today's 
     workplaces and today's educational needs.
       Young people who choose to have after school jobs should 
     not have to compromise their education to do so. Yet, many 
     do. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a 16- and 17-year-old 
     can try to juggle as much as 40 hours of work per week, in 
     addition to their 30 hours of school. Combined, this is more 
     work than is expected of most adults in this country. Whether 
     short-sighted about their own education or facing coercion 
     from employers, many young people work too many hours. 
     Studies show that when teens work over 20 hours a week while 
     school is in session that their grades go down and often 
     alcohol and drug abuses escalates. Many work well over 20 
     hours a week in after-school and weekend jobs.
       Teen worker injuries are also escalating. The National 
     Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has raised 
     estimates on youth worker injuries from 200,000 in 1992 to 
     230,000 in 1998. Every year, between 60-70 young people die 
     in the workplace. Outdated child labor laws--written in the 
     1930s--cannot and do not adequately protect our nation's 
     young workers from workplace hazards.
       We have high expectations for the passage of the Youth 
     Worker Protection Act. Our highest expectation is that 
     passage of the bill will lead to fewer injuries, fewer 
     deaths, and remove the too often scenario of a youth's first 
     job being his last job. I will leave it to Congressman Tom 
     Lantos to tell you how.
       We have high expectations that the passage of the bill will 
     put youth employment in its proper place--as a positive first 
     experience in the world of work. But the first job of any 
     young person today is education--Education that will prepare 
     that teenager to be a productive worker tomorrow.
       No teenager expects that they will get hurt on the after-
     school or weekend job. And, as a nation, we are not assuring 
     young people that the law protects them from harm in the 
     workplace. The passage of the Youth Worker Protection Act 
     would be a step in the right direction. But for now, it is 
     the National Consumers League commitment to teen workers and 
     their parents to arm them with information they need to think 
     twice when choosing that job. Check out
 childlabor for new materials about laws that do exist and how 
     to avoid dangerous work, including NCL's five worst teen 
       This fall, nine American families won't enjoy the back-to-
     school festivities as usual. Nine families are mourning the 
     deaths of their children over this last summer. The cause of 
     death? Workplace injuries. Every 30 seconds, a young worker 
     under the age of 18 is injured on the job. On average, every 
     five days, one of the injuries is fatal.
       Such losses are indefensible. Especially deaths from 
     workplace injuries, which could have been prevented with 
     stronger laws protecting young workers and stronger 
     government commitment to enforcement and prosecution under 
     the law.