Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Child Labor Crackdown

Child labor crackdown promised
Officials say fines must be tougher increased needed
(Charlotte Observer, Nov 13, 2008)

Federal and state lawmakers said this week they will push to strengthen the government's power to keep youths out of dangerous jobs and punish employers who violate child labor laws.
In Washington, some members of Congress want to beef up child labor inspections. In Raleigh, some legislators -- along with the current and incoming governors -- said they will move to stiffen fines for violating child labor laws. The maximum penalty of $250 per violation in North Carolina hasn't changed in nearly three decades.

"The employment of underage workers in high-risk, physically dangerous jobs as uncovered by the Charlotte Observer is alarming," Governor-elect Beverly Perdue said. "The need is clear -- there must be tougher enforcement of our state's child labor laws and stiffer penalties for any business or industry caught breaking them."

Their comments came in response to Charlotte Observer stories this week showing that federal child labor enforcement has declined, despite new evidence that employers are ignoring the laws. As part of its investigation, the Observer interviewed more than 20 current and former House of Raeford Farms workers who said the poultry company often hired underage workers.

Gov. Mike Easley said he would instruct his staff to try to address the problems before he leaves office in January.

"It's hard to believe that's going on in this century and in this state," he said. "You're really talking about a form of child abuse here. We're not a state that wants children abused and endangered."

More inspectors

With a stronger majority in Congress and their party's candidate preparing to enter the White House, Democrats say they will soon find it easier to make federal workplace safety changes.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D- Calif., who heads the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, said she'll push to increase the number of inspectors who can investigate child labor complaints and update rules to keep juveniles out of hazardous jobs.

"Your story, I thought, was just heartbreaking," said Woolsey, who held a hearing in September about federal efforts to protect working children. "Nobody should face dangerous working conditions -- particularly our children. ...We have a great deal of work to do."

Federal child labor investigations have dropped by nearly half since fiscal year 2000.

Recent studies have found that a large percentage of young workers are taking on jobs deemed unsafe for people their age. On a typical day, more than 400 juveniles are hurt on the job.

Stiffer state fines

In North Carolina, state Senate leader Marc Basnight said he has directed his staff to work with the N.C. Department of Labor and the Attorney General to look at the issues the newspaper raised. He questioned whether the state's $250 fine was enough.

"You could be penalized more for throwing trash out the window than you could for abusing the laws that are in place as it pertains ... to kids and young folks," he said. "And that should not be."

State Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat, called for stiffer penalties and oversight of the Department of Labor, headed by Commissioner Cherie Berry, a Republican.

"This could require some legislation if she doesn't do more on her own," said Luebke, who heads the House Finance Committee.

Berry said it's up to the General Assembly to amend child labor laws, but she's willing to work with legislators.

Berry, recently elected to her third term, said her department has limited authority to investigate large employers for child labor violations, and said that parents have the "ultimate responsibility" to determine what type of work their children do.

Pelosi Speaks of Possible End to Worksite Raids

(Strohm, 2008)
House Speaker Pelosi has touched off a new round of fighting over whether the Homeland Security Department should continue to stage controversial raids of worksites around the country. That may foreshadow a dispute that could move front and center when the new Congress convenes in January.
Pelosi indicated at a news conference Wednesday that she supports an end to worksite enforcement operations nationwide by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of the Homeland Security Department. She said the urgency of putting together comprehensive immigration reform legislation has been intensified by the raids. "How do we end the ICE raids, have a situation where we can end the ICE raids as we put together the comprehensive immigration reform?" she asked.
She did not offer a timeline for the Democratic-led Congress to take up comprehensive immigration legislation. In response to additional questions, a Pelosi spokesman said the speaker has long expressed concerns that the Raids are ineffective and "unnecessarily divide families at the expense of children." The aide added: "As the speaker clearly stated during her press conference last week, she supports a bipartisan solution that protects our borders, enforces our laws, unites families and creates a path to legalization." But such comments already have come under fire by Republican lawmakers who believe worksite enforcement actions are a valuable tool to dissuade employers from hiring illegal workers. "The last thing we should be talking about is ending ICE raids. We need more enforcement, not less,"
said House Homeland Security ranking member Peter King. House Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith also weighed in. "Instead of criticizing, the Speaker should be commending ICE for protecting American jobs by ensuring that they don't go to illegal immigrants, targeting identity thieves and holding employers accountable," Smith said. "I'm troubled that the speaker seems to be more concerned with the welfare of illegal immigrants than of the U.S. citizens who have to compete against them for jobs."
The rift between Pelosi and GOP lawmakers underscores tensions that persist over immigration issues, which now fall into the lap of President-elect Obama. A coalition of immigration advocates has scheduled a news conference Tuesday to call on Obama to institute a moratorium on ICE raids when he takes office in January. Some GOP congressional aides said they worry that Obama will appoint a new ICE director who will not make worksite enforcement raids a high priority - a move they believe would be a major mistake. Immigration advocates said they were encouraged by Pelosi's comments last week. "I think that her statement showed a real recognition that the raids that we've seen in the last few months have been largely ineffective," said Grisella Martinez, legislative director for the National Immigration Forum. The raids are a byproduct of a failed immigration system that needs to be revamped, she said.
But those who support strict enforcement of the nation's immigration laws hope Obama's administration will not end worksite operations. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which favors reduced immigration, notes that Obama's presidential campaign Web site outlines support for employer sanctions. "To remove incentives to enter the country illegally, we need to crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants," the Web site said. But the site offered no additional information, other than a statement that Obama supports legislation to create a new employment eligibility verification system "so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S."

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Friday, November 7, 2008

!Si se pudo!

Hello Friends,
Please check out this petition to President-elect Obama to call for a moratorium on ICE raids.
From The Rise Movement:
Si se pudo! Yesterday, we made history. Latinos, immigrants, and people of conscience voted in awesome numbers. And, overwhelmingly, we cast our ballots for a presidential candidate whose life story and vision promise hope for immigrants and everyone who has not yet been fully included in the American community. Now, we petition the President-elect to deliver the change we need: an end to the anti-immigrant assault. Yesterday, we upheld the promise of 2006. Today, we celebrated this historic victory and began the long march to justice that lies before us.We walked with hundreds of supporters from the Placita Olvera encampment to the nearby federal building, broke the fast with fruit juice in an interfaith religious ceremony, and made a new promise: "Yesterday we voted, tomorrow we march!" And today, we launched a petition to President-elect Obama calling for an immediate moratorium on ICE raids. Please sign the petition right now.Barack Obama's victory and the Democratic landslide offer us a tremendous opportunity. But, as Obama himself says over and again, change comes from the bottom up and never ends with an election. It is up to us to seize this moment and fight to realize the promise of just immigration reform that our votes have created.The Fast has inspired so many to imagine the possibilities for our movement of militant nonviolent action in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. How much more can we do if we are willing to make deep personal sacrifices for la causa? To find out, we will have to train and prepare ourselves.First, we must declare our determination to hold our leaders accountable to our vote. Everyone in our movement agrees: the ICE raids must end! Let's let Obama know - sign the petition today and forward it to everyone you know.Thank you so much for everything you've done. Si se puede,The Rise teamP.S. Special thanks to everyone who donated in response to our appeal. We were moved by the response, and we've cut our debt for the Fast in half. Please donate today to help us pay off the expenses of this historic campaign.
© 2008