Remember Cesar Chavez with a call to Congress – National Consumers League

By Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition

Today, we celebrate the birth of legendary farmworker and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of impoverished migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

Chavez began working in the fields at age 10 in 1937 when the Great Depression took his family’s farm in Yuma, Arizona. Nearly a half century later in his Commonwealth Club Address of 1984, Chavez reminded Americans that child labor was still a problem in U.S. agriculture.

Today, sadly, child labor in the fields is flourishing.

Cesar Chavez attended 65 elementary schools as his family migrated to find work. He did not graduate high school. Overwhelmed by constant migration and exhaustion from arduous work, many migrant children drop out of school—half never graduate—and contribute to the generational poverty that has troubled the farmworker community for decades.

We are asking our friends to call Congress today to express their concern about child farmworkers and support for the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment, HR 3564. Our alert follows with a list of the current 78 congressional cosponsors attached. If your member of Congress is not on this list, we would very much appreciate your calling today. In the DC area, Rep. VanHollen, Rep. Holmes-Norton, and Rep. Edwards are not cosponsors yet.

Call your Representative on Cesar Chavez Day March 31, 2010 to support the CARE Act (H.R. 3564)

Hundreds of thousands of children work in agriculture throughout the United States. Child farmworkers as young as twelve often work 8-12 hour days under dangerous and grueling conditions. They risk pesticide poisoning, injuries, and suffer fatalities at five times the rate of children working in other jobs. As a result of their long hours, they drop out of school at alarming rates. Nationally, barely half graduate from high school.

Although agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, child farmworkers are exempt from the legal protections granted to all other working children in the US.

Please help us honor the legacy of civil rights leader and advocate for farmworkers Cesar Chavez on his birthday, Wednesday, March 31st by urging your Representative to sponsor the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), H.R. 3564. This important piece of legislation would adjust the age and work hours for children in agriculture to the same standards as other sectors, ensuring equal protection for all children. The bill would also preserve the family farm exemption to permit farmers to pass on work skills to their own children.

Call Congress on Wednesday March 31st at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to the office of your representative.

When the CARE Act is signed into law, children working on farms will have a chance to succeed in school and lead healthy and productive lives. Currently, 77 members of the House of Representatives have sponsored CARE, but we need additional sponsors to get the bill passed.

Sample message:

“My name is ____, and I’m calling from (town/city, state). I’m very concerned about child labor in U.S. agriculture. I am calling because I would like the representative to sponsor H.R. 3564, the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment. I believe this bill is critical to protecting the safety, health and well-being of farmworker children and it deserves the Representative’s support.”

We particularly encourage calls to Members of the House Education and Labor Committee who have not yet sponsored the bill. Please click here to see a list with contact information.

Here is our list of the current co-sponsors:

Rep. Abercrombie, Neil

Rep. Baca, Joe

Rep. Becerra, Xavier

Rep. Berman, Howard Rep. Brown, Corrine

Rep. Capps, Lois

Rep. Capuano, Michael

Rep. Cardoza, Dennis

Rep. Chu, Judy

Rep. Clarke, Yvette

Rep. Clay, Wm. Lacy

Rep. Cleaver, Emanuel

Rep. Cohen, Steve

Rep. Connolly, Gerald

Rep. Conyers, John, Jr.

Rep. Costa, Jim

Rep. Cummings, Elijah

Rep. Davis, Danny

Rep. Delahunt, Bill

Rep. DeLauro, Rosa

Rep. Ellison, Keith

Rep. Farr, Sam

Rep. Fattah, Chaka

Rep. Filner, Bob

Rep. Garamendi, John

Rep. Gonzalez, Charles

Rep. Grayson, Alan

Rep. Grijalva, Raul

Rep. Gutierrez, Luis

Rep. Hare, Phil

Rep. Hastings, Alcee

Rep. Hinchey, Maurice

Rep. Hinojosa, Ruben

Rep. Honda, Michael

Rep. Jackson, Jesse

Rep. Jackson-Lee, Sheila

Rep. Johnson, Eddie B.

Rep. Johnson, Henry

Rep. Kaptur, Marcy

Rep. Kilpatrick, Carolyn

Rep. Kucinich, Dennis

Rep. Lee, Barbara

Rep. Levin, Sander

Rep. Lewis, John

Rep. Lynch, Stephen

Rep. Maloney, Carolyn

Rep. Matsui, Doris

Rep. McDermott, Jim

Rep. McGovern, James

Rep. Michaud, Michael

Rep. Moran, James

Rep. Napolitano, Grace

Rep. Olver, John

Rep. Ortiz, Solomon

Rep. Pallone, Frank, Jr.

Rep. Pastor, Ed

Rep. Payne, Donald

Rep. Pierluisi, Pedro

Rep. Rangel, Charles

Rep. Reyes, Silvestre

Rep. Richardson, Laura

Rep. Roybal-Allard*

Rep. Rodriguez, Ciro

Rep. Rush, Bobby

Rep. Gregorio K. Sablan

Rep. Salazar, John

Rep. Sanchez, Linda

Rep. Sanchez, Loretta

Rep. Schakowsky, Janice

Rep. Schiff, Adam

Rep. Scott, Robert

Rep. Serrano, Jose

Rep. Sires, Albio

Rep. Thompson, Bennie

Rep. Velazquez, Nydia

Rep. Waters, Maxine

Rep. Watson, Diane

Rep. Waxman, Henry

Rep. Woolsey, Lynn