Partner Spotlight: National Farm Worker Ministry
NFWM is a faith-based organization that supports farm workers organizing to improve their living and working conditions.
Contributions and support for Church and Society provide the resources needed for meaningful collaboration with coalitions and organizations whose visions are aligned with the positions of The United Methodist Church. Through these partnerships, our work is strengthened, our reach is broadened, and our witness is amplified. Working together is essential to educating, organizing, and advocating for justice and peace.
One of our partners is the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM). Julie Taylor, Executive Director of NFWM, wrote in to share a bit about their partnership with The United Methodist Church and their ongoing efforts to protect the human and civil rights of farm workers.
The National Farm Worker Ministry is grateful for United Methodists who consistently promote economic justice and human rights. Together we stand with those who are some of the most marginalized in our society, who are considered essential but not treated that way. Our solidarity with farm workers is a demonstration of the faith we live out loud. The voices, letters, and efforts of United Methodists working with the NFWM and in solidarity with farm workers allow organizers to create impactful campaigns and efforts to change laws that continue to oppress.
In the year 2023, one would think that child labor in the United States would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The 1938 National Fair Labor Standards Act provided the first regulations for child labor in the United States. It protects children from injury on the job, supports their health and well-being, and helps ensure work does not interfere with their education. However, this legislation has several exemptions, including agricultural work, even though agriculture is one of the most hazardous jobs in our country. Currently, it is estimated that there are 300,000 to 500,000 children farm workers in the US. They work because their families are desperately in need of financial assistance given the low wages, lack of benefits, and the uncertainty of consistent employment in farm work.
There have been many attempts to change this reality and provide protection for all children. In partnership with the Child Labor Coalition of the National Consumers League, the National Farm Worker Ministry is working to support the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment and Farm Safety (CARE Act). The CARE Act would revise labor provisions for protecting child workers, including those employed in agriculture, and increase civil penalties for violations of such provisions. Specifically, the bill revises the definition of oppressive child labor to prohibit the employment of children under the age of 14 and impose new employer reporting requirements for work-related injuries or deaths of agricultural employees under the age of 18. The Department of Labor must analyze, collect, and report on data concerning children under the age of 18 who are employed in agriculture.
NFWM has multiple resources about child labor in agriculture, including specific actions on the CARE Act, such as a one-page fact sheet and a sample letter to send to legislators. Please consider contacting your Senators and Representative to request their co-sponsorship or thank them for already signing on to this bill. Pushing the CARE Act right now will help further this important work for farm workers and their families.