A group of 62 Democrats in the House is pressing the Biden administration to take more aggressive action to combat child labor law violations, following reports of widespread abuses at prominent U.S. companies.
The lawmakers, led by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), said in a letter to former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra that the administration needs to take more steps to make sure children are not illegally employed in the U.S.
“We are concerned with new investigative reporting alleging migrant children are illegally working in factories across the United States for major corporations in the automotive, processed food and textile industries,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “This is unacceptable and must end immediately. Children should be in school, not working in dangerous factory jobs.”
Walsh left the Biden administration at the end of last week. Kildee’s team confirmed that the Labor Department acknowledged its receipt of the letter for Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su.
The pressure from House Democrats comes after the federal government revealed last month that child labor violations have been on the rise since 2015. The administration has announced some high-profile investigations into companies and levied a $1.5 million fine on Packers Sanitation Services Inc., one of the country’s largest food safety sanitation companies.
Labor and Health and Human Services officials also announced last month several joint initiatives to snuff out labor violations, including an interagency task force between Labor and Health and Human Services, which will enhance information-sharing between the departments.
Lawmakers nodded to the actions the departments are taking, but said they were not enough.
“We appreciate the latest initiatives by the U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to partner and use enforcement tools to combat child labor,” the lawmakers said. “However, we are frustrated by the lack of timely action. We ask your agencies to take additional immediate actions to stop child labor abuses.”
The lawmakers asked the Labor Department to use a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act to stop the shipment of goods from factories that use illegal child labor.
“This will ensure companies do not profit from the sale of products made while using illegal child labor and encourage companies to scrutinize their supply chains more closely,” lawmakers said.
They also asked that Health and Human Services be much more aggressive in following up when children make a complaint or request assistance because of their work environment.
—Updated at 5:05 p.m.