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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Employment Standards Administration

ESA Press Release: U.S. Labor Department Finds 4-year-old among 12 Underage Children Working in Arizona Onion Fields [07/24/1998]

For more information call: (202) 219-8211

A 4-year-old and 11 other children under the age of 12 were found working on Arizona farms during this spring's onion harvest and now three growers and three farm labor contractors have been fined for violating child labor laws. The U.S. Department of Labor announced the fines today.

"A 4-year-old working in the onion fields is a disgrace," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "Farmworker families sometimes feel they have no choice but to take their children with them to the fields. But this 4-year-old was working not playing. This should never happen."

Investigators from the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division discovered the children during an enforcement sweep of Maricopa County. Fines totaling $19,650 were assessed against farm labor contractors Chavez Harvesting, Jose Sedano and Gilberto Mora and farmers Hubbard Brothers and Waddell Farms of Glendale and Rousseau Farming of Tolleson.

"The Department of Labor is determined to stop child labor violations," said Bernard Anderson, assistant secretary for the department's Employment Standards Administration. "These children were working not just playing in the fields while their parents worked. We cannot accept a situation where children 4, 6, 7, or even 11 are working in the fields."

In addition to the child labor violations, investigators from the Phoenix district office of the Wage and Hour Division fined Hubbard Brothers, Rousseau Farming and Waddell Farms a total of $21,040 for repeat minimum wage violations and $16,480 for repeat violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

The growers and farm labor contractors have 15 days to appeal the assessment of the fines.

This sweep during the onion harvest was part of "Operation Salad Bowl," a special enforcement action targetting farms growing salad vegetables --lettuce, garlic, cucumbers and tomatoes. The Wage and Hour Division is conducting more than 50 enforcement sweeps nationwide this year in agriculture with a special emphasis on child labor compliance. In April, the department fined six growers in Texas's Rio Grand Valley for hiring 36 children, four as young as 6, to harvest onions. Recently, a farm labor contractor and packing shed operator near Las Cruces, N.M., were cited for illegally employing two 10-year-olds to harvest onions.

The Fair Labor Standards Act generally prohibits the employment of minors under the age of 12 to work in agriculture. Minors aged 12 and 13 may work outside school hours in farm jobs not declared hazardous when they are employed on the same farms as their parents or have written parental consent to work elsewhere. Fourteen and 15-year-old youth can be legally employed in any nonhazardous farm jobs outside of school hours.

The Wage and Hour Division is also responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act which regulates housing and transportation standards and the disclosure of terms and conditions of employment for farm workers.

For more information about the laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division call the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division, listed in the government pages of the phone book. Information is also available on the department's web site at

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employment Standards Administration
July 24, 1998
Media Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number