On Thursday, the Labor Department denounced a national surge in child labor violations, reporting that the office had found thousands of violations across the United States.
The Department of Labor said it had found a 44 percent increase in the number of children illegally employed over the past year. It revealed it has more than 700 open cases, and had already found 4,474 children working illegally.
Fines against employers for violations have also gone up 87 percent increase in recent months. Companies have been hit wit $6.6 million total in fines. The maximum fine for hiring underage workers sits at $15,138, which advocates say is not high enough to deter companies from hiring children.
The numbers were revealed in a Wednesday hearing in which a bipartisan group of lawmakers accused Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra of failing to protect migrant children from exploitation. As Democratic Representative Anna G. Eshoo of California told him: “At the end of the day, as H.H.S. secretary, the buck stops with you.”
Statistics from the Department of Labor reveal that child labor violation cases increased over 50 percent between 2015 and 2022. Several Republican states, including Arkansas, Iowa, and Ohio, have sought to rollback child labor protections to meet labor demands.
The Biden Administration previously said it would be working to address child labor violations, particularly among migrant children. Children in immigrant families will sometimes join the workforce with their parents instead of attending school in order to support themselves.
Last week, a 16-year-old boy died in a workplace accident at a Mississippi poultry plant. Duvan Tomas Perez at the Mar-Jac facility after he was ensnared in a machine he had been cleaning.
Following Perez's, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Wage and Hour Division have each opened an investigation into Mar-Jac Poultry. The Hattiesburg Police Department has also said it is investigating the cause of death. At their hearing, the Department of Labor said they are looking into the case as well.
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