Streams

Child Labor in Tobacco Fields

Monday, December 02, 2013

A 2001 study found that one in four tobacco workers suffers from acute nicotine poisoning, or “green tobacco sickness.” Gabriel Thompson looks at this illness and at why children are allowed to work in tobacco fields in this country—these hazards have led countries like Russia and Kazakhstan to ban anyone under 18 from harvesting tobacco, but no such prohibition exists here. Thompson’s article, reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute, “Leaves of Poison: Why Are Children Working in Tobacco Fields?” is in the December 2 issue of The Nation. He’ll be joined by Mariya Strauss, who has done extensive reporting on child labor laws in this country.

Guests:

Mariya Strauss and Gabriel Thompson

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Comments [4]

oh, and the rate in 1979 was $2 an hour.

Dec. 02 2013 01:57 PM

when i was 18 i worked in a tobacco filed in eastern NC for several weeks - it was a 13 hour day, it was physically exhausting, and i would go home and throw up from nicotine poisoning -- (at least that's what they said, it may have been the chemicals). there was an 11-yr-old driving the tractor that pulled the harvester we worked on, and a woman got her fingers caught in the pulley gears one day -- teh kid did not know how to turn off the tractor that was operating these pulleys. gruesome. i had to quit because of the poisoning.

Dec. 02 2013 01:48 PM

when i was 18 i worked in a tobacco filed in eastern NC for several weeks - it was a 13 hour day, it was physically exhausting, and i would go home and throw up from nicotine poisoning -- (at least that's what they said, it may have been the chemicals). there was an 11-yr-old driving the tractor that pulled the harvester we worked on, and a woman got her fingers caught in the pulley gears one day -- teh kid did not know how to turn off the tractor that was operating these pulleys. gruesome. i had to quit because of the poisoning.

Dec. 02 2013 01:48 PM

I'm from central Connecticut and I can remember that in the summer 14-year-olds worked in the tobacco farms along the Conn. River north of Hartford where premium cigar wrapper leaf is grown under gauze netting.
They'd be picked up at a few bus stops along the Main Street in Meriden early in the morning for a long commute to the fields followed by hot dirty work for I'm sure not much pay.
Believe that seasonal agricultural workers were exempt from the 16-year-old minimum for other kinds of work.

Dec. 02 2013 01:08 PM

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