Padilla Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Combat Child Labor Exploitation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) introduced the Child Labor Accountability Act of 2023 to provide the Department of Labor (DOL) with additional time to investigate child labor violations and build their case to combat these abuses. The legislation would also ensure Congress receives a detailed annual report from the DOL on its work to investigate and enforce against violations of federal child labor laws.

Over the last several years, there has been a significant surge in child labor violations, including migrant child labor exploitation. According to data from the DOL, there has been a dramatic 76% increase in reported child labor violations, from 542 in FY 2015 to 955 in FY 2023, and the reported number of minors illegally employed has doubled in just the past two fiscal years. We need increased transparency, accountability, and resource allocation to the DOL — the leading federal agency tasked with combating child labor violations. The Child Labor Accountability Act of 2023 would make crucial strides to support DOL’s efforts in combating increased child labor violations.

“We must do everything in our power to crack down on companies illegally profiting off the exploitation of child labor — including of unaccompanied migrant children,” said Senator Padilla. “That’s why I’m proud to join Senators Rubio, Hickenlooper, and Marshall, working across the aisle to expand the window in which the Department of Labor can hold companies accountable for these unacceptable abuses and require more comprehensive annual reports for Congress on federal child labor law violations.”

“Above all, minors in America should not be exploited, and U.S. law needs to be strengthened to make sure these children are protected from abusive scenarios. This bipartisan legislation will ensure Congress receives more information to better address these illegal practices,” said Senator Rubio.

“Across the country, kids are being exploited for low-paid, dangerous labor – especially vulnerable migrant children. Our bill will increase accountability and transparency, and make it easier to identify and stop child labor,” said Senator Hickenlooper.

“Violating child labor laws is a heinous crime that should be met with strict and swift penalties. Congress should have access to all of the information when looking into these abuses that are targeting children. The additional reporting required in this bill is essential for us to better combat child labor offenses in the future,” said Senator Marshall.

Under the existing “hot goods” provisions, DOL has an unreasonable 30 days to make their case against those suspected of violating child labor laws — a significantly shorter time than the 90-day enforcement period for products made in violation of minimum wage and overtime law. This legislation would increase the “hot goods” period to 90 days to help ensure that DOL has more time to investigate and ultimately hold child labor violators accountable.

The Child Labor Accountability Act also contains requirements for DOL to provide Congress with more comprehensive and consistent data and information concerning child labor violations. Among other things, DOL would be required to report:

  1. The number of pending and closed investigations into child labor violations;
  2. Key demographic information about perpetrators and those subject to child labor; and
  3. Policy recommendations on how to mitigate and combat child labor.

Senator Padilla has fought relentlessly to combat the increase in child labor law violations. Earlier this year, Padilla and Hickenlooper sent a letter to the CEOs of 27 major companies accused of exploiting migrant child labor, urging they take immediate steps to stop any unlawful exploitation or ill treatment of children. He and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting information related to reports that HHS received warnings that unaccompanied children were being released from HHS custody into situations that presented a risk of labor exploitation and trafficking. Padilla also co-chaired a Judiciary Committee hearing to condemn the labor exploitation of migrant children in the United States and call on the federal government to hold employers unlawfully exploiting migrant children accountable. In March, Padilla questioned U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on the increase in labor exploitation of migrant children, among other subjects.


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