Child Labor in Wisconsin Agriculture: Human Rights Violation or Beneficial Experience?
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Human rights organizations have attacked child labor in U.S. agriculture. Investigations into the conditions for children working in U.S. agriculture, such as the 2010 Human Rights Watch study Fields of Peril, propelled the U.S. Department of Labor's largest attempt in U.S. history to reform child labor laws in agriculture. The Obama administration abandoned the 2009 Children's Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act) in April 2012 following aggressive opposition by U.S agricultural interests and farming families. My study investigates how people who worked as children on farms evaluate their experiences. I interviewed 15 adults who worked on farms in Wisconsin as children and their responses suggest that what some see as violations of childrens' human rights are often valued and treasured experiences by those who once toiled in the fields. Most of my interviewees saw no problem with children working on farms and often opposed change to the existing child labor laws. Insights from these interviews, as well as secondary research, could provide a better basis for future change that would more effectively aid those who are truly victims.