The Labor Department announced a crackdown on child labor on Monday, saying more than 3,800 children were found working at US companies last year in violation of federal law.
The new measures, which include the launch of an interagency task force and tracking of minors entering the country alone, were announced in the wake of media reports, including from NBC News, of gruesome child labor in the US.
“We see the crisis of child labor in this country every day, and we have a legal and moral obligation to take every step in our power to stop it,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a statement.
Officials said there has been a 69 per cent increase in the number of children employed in violation of labor laws since 2018.
The Labor Department said last year about 835 companies were illegally set up to employ minors, and more than 600 are under investigation for child labor.
Officials said the problem has worsened as a large number of children have arrived in the US without parents, fleeing violence and poverty in Latin America.
NBC News previously reported that 102 children under the age of 13 were found working hazardous overnight jobs cleaning slaughterhouses, which the Labor Department called “corporate sanitation” by Packers Sanitation Services Inc., one of the nation’s largest food sanitation companies. -wide failure”. ,
According to advocates and attorneys, some of the children employed by the company to clean slaughterhouses in the Midwest are the only minor children from Guatemala to have come across the southern border.
DHS officials said Homeland Security investigators are probing whether children, largely undocumented immigrants, were part of a human trafficking scheme. PSSI is not the target of that investigation and has not been accused of wrongdoing by DHS.
A PSSI spokeswoman told NBC News that it “has a strong corporate commitment to our zero-tolerance policy toward employing anyone under the age of 18, and is committed to ensuring full compliance at all locations.” fully shares the purpose.”
Federal authorities confirmed Monday that they are investigating Hearthside Food Solutions for possible child labor violations, which was the subject of a New York Times article over the weekend.
A spokesperson for Hearthside said the company “will work closely with the Department of Labor in their investigation and will continue to comply with all local, state and federal employment laws.”
Stepping up its efforts to target companies that use child labor, the Department of Labor will use new strategies to launch investigations where child labor violations are most likely to occur. The agency called on Congress to increase the maximum penalty for child labor violations, which is currently $15,000.
“It’s not enough for large profitable companies,” the Labor Department said in a news release.