The U.S. Department of Labor has launched an investigation into meat processing giants Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms following a report that the companies had children as young as 13 working overnight shifts at their facilities.
Earlier this month, the New York Times published a harrowing story about a migrant child whose arm was nearly torn off while working at a Perdue slaughterhouse in Eastern Virginia. According to the Times, 14-year-old Marcos Cux had been hired by one of the company's contractors to clean machinery.
The in-depth report said several other middle- and high school-age children made up about one-third of the overnight shifts at the plant, and mentioned some who worked at Tyson facilities. They were reportedly tasked with handling acid and pressure hoses to clean blood and scraps off industrial machinery.
Under federal law, those types of tasks are strictly prohibited to anyone under the age of 18.
The federal probe comes about seven months after the Biden administration pledged to crack down on illegal child labor. In February, the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services announced a new task force that was designed to fight the exploitation of children in the workforce.
According to data from the Department of Labor, the number of minors employed in violation of child labor laws has been on a steep decline since 2001. But since 2015, violations have been creeping up.
Last year, the U.S. Labor Department recorded a 37% increase in the number of minors employed in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Most cases involve children working more or later hours than allowed. But the Department of Labor found nearly 700 children working illegally in hazardous jobs in fiscal year 2022.
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