The cycle of migrant labor is tough to break. Most migrant farm laborers travel through most of the year, going wherever a crop needs to be planted or picked. They may be in Michigan for the strawberry season, in California picking lettuce during the winter, and in New York in the spring. Most jobs are low paid.
This lifestyle is particularly hard for children, many of whom have to work long hours, in violation of the New York child labor laws. Because the children travel with their parents, their school attendance is usually sporadic. They may need to repeat a grade or attend summer school to catch up.
Most migrant children work to help support their families during the summer. As they fall further behind at school, many migrant youth drop out. This severely limits their career alternatives and often they are trapped in the vicious cycle of migrant labor for another generation.
A pilot program will provide incentives for the children and their parents to break this vicious cycle. Rural Opportunities of Rochester recently won a $1.25 million grant. The grant is to launch a pilot program that will provide incentives for the youth and their parents for the children to stay in school. Additional incentives will be provided for the children to attend summer school when it’s necessary for grade promotion.
This effort is aimed at ending New York child labor by the children of migrant farm workers, and giving the youth expanded career opportunities. In addition to the New York grant, a Sacramento cooperative was awarded $2 million for a pilot program. Michigan State University also received $1.25 million under the program.
Often, the children of migrant workers have few opportunities to attend school. Many are kept out of school and work during the picking or planting seasons, in violation of state and federal child labor laws. This program will help migrant children receive a better education. The purpose of the grants is to develop and pilot demonstrations that offer career choices to the children of migrant farm workers.
New York’s Child Labor Law is very clear, at least in my opinion. Full-time schooling is required for all children under the age of 16.
Children who are 11 years of age or older may work only outside of school hours as newspaper carriers or delivering periodicals to homes or business places. At the age of 12, children may be employed in agricultural harvesting of berries, fruits, and vegetables. I have found that children who are 12 or older may work (outside school hours) for their parents or guardians either on the family farm or at other outdoor tasks not connected with a business.
Children who have not yet reached their fourteenth birthday may not be employed at any time, neither after school nor during vacation. By law, children aged 14 and 15 may work after school hours and during vacation, but they may not perform any type of factory work. They may do clerical work in enclosed offices of a factory, work in services like dry cleaners, tailor shops, and shoe repair, or work in deliveries. Children who are fourteen years of age or older may work in street trades, like selling newspapers or periodicals.
Children 16 and 17 years of age who are not attending school can work full time throughout the year. Factory work is permitted for minors 16 years of age or older.
Children who are not employed can be required by their local area to attend school until they reach age 17 or graduate. High school graduates are not required to continue attending school, but they must provide their employer with an employment certificate proving full-time employment until they reach their 18th birthday.
It is my understanding that there is no minimum age in New York for child performers at jobs in theater, radio, television, or modeling.