Child Labor Laws Examined

By Rick Rice and Dean Fryer

Jose Millan, Chief of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (State Labor Commissioner) of the California Department of Industrial Relations testified recently, in Washington D.C., before the hearing of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Training regarding child labor. The Senate hearing focused on the positive efforts that farmers, retailers, and manufacturers are making to address the best practices to curb child labor violations.

"What we have learned through our enforcement experience is that consistent, joint inspections, coupled with an aggressive educational outreach effort, do lead to measurable increases in compliance and to

decreases in the number of violations found in the workplace," said Millan. "This has been evident in the garment manufacturing and agriculture industries where the level of worksite inspections has been consistent while the number of child labor violations has dramatically fallen since we began our joint inspection and educational outreach efforts."

As the state's chief labor law enforcement officer, Commissioner Millan was invited to testify and discuss the successful policies initiated in California. Millan was instrumental in implementing the Targeted

Industries Partnership Program (TIPP), which is a nationally recognized multi-agency enforcement and educational effort focused on the garment, agricultural and restaurant industries.

Millan's contributions to TIPP were a significant factor in that program receiving the 1996 Council of State Government Award for Innovative Government Programs. TIPP began its operations in November 1992 and has as its main agency partners the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, as well as the California Employment Development Department, and the Department of Industrial Relation's Occupational Safety and Health Division (Cal/OSHA).

In his testimony Millan said "One step in the development of increasing compliance among the employer community with child labor laws in California was to standardize and bring uniformity, insofar as possible, to both federal and state child labor laws. This was done five years ago, with the signing of the Omnibus Child Labor Reform Act of 1993 by Governor Wilson. This bill adopted many of the provisions found in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and incorporated these standards into state law. This bill also maintained the higher state protections, where state law was more stringent than federal law."

TIPP has been aggressive in its educational outreach program, targeting the employer populations that are most at risk of committing violations; working with employer associations, school officials and local law

enforcement agencies to promote awareness and familiarity with child labor laws; developing and promoting radio and television public service announcements with special emphasis on ethnic media; and preparing and disseminating written material in both English and non-English languages.

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Rick Rice and Dean Fryer are with the California Department of Industrial Relations.

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