Freedom United exposes U.S. regression on child exploitation -

Freedom United exposes U.S. regression on child exploitation

  • Published on
    March 15, 2024
  • Written by:
    Joanna Ewart-James
  • Category:
    Child Slavery, Law & Policy, Prevention, Supply Chain
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My Freedom Day should be everyone’s, every day. Except we’re facing unprecedented rollbacks in labor laws across the U.S. facilitating the exploitation of children, which of course eases the path toward forced labour.

My Freedom Day

March 14 is designated My Freedom Day – a day of student-driven action to raise awareness of modern slavery. This year I was at Atlanta International School, where students organized a film festival from their own submissions, activities for the youngest students, presentations for parents. We launched our campaign for a U.S. where every child is protected from exploitation at work.

Retrogressive moves

Meanwhile, today fourteen states have either enacted or are considering legislation that would weaken child protection laws. These changes expand the types of work children can do to include previously decreed dangerous occupations, extend the hours they work, impinging their ability to exercise their right to education, and reduce the minimum age for prescribed workplaces.

I spoke to CNN explaining:

There are really shocking cases, for example a 16-year-old from Guatemala who was sucked into a deboning machine in a meat processing plant last summer… The Department of Labor itself recorded a 37% increase in child labor law violations so we’re calling together with our petition as a voice to try and stop these child labor law rollbacks and strengthen protections so that the U.S. can be a safe place for children.

Despite this shocking statistic and horrific cases, we are witnessing a reversal toward an era familiar to activists from over 100 years ago. They successfully campaigned for the very labor laws that are now being rollbacked. This is clearly the antithesis of what is needed right now.

Marginalization plays into exploitation

Why and how is this happening? Well the victims are mostly migrant children. Over 250,000 unaccompanied minors have entered the U.S. over the past two years. They are not here illegally; the federal government knows they are in the country. Indeed it has deployed a task force to ensure they are protected from trafficking and exploitation.

However, the government has lost immediate contact with over a third of the migrant children. We can only point, once again, to the dangerous cocktail of discrimination, marginalisation combined with the pursuit of profit over people, to explain how we are here.

We must stand up against this and reverse this trend before we witness widespread modern slavery across the industrial U.S.

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