WHAT: The U.S. Department of Labor fined three large Washington state strawberry growers $73,000 after finding children between the ages of 6 and 11 harvesting in their fields. Federal law bars children younger than 12 from such work.
WHY: Northwest berry pickers are usually paid a piece rate instead of an hourly wage and often struggle to earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Desperate parents put their children to work so the family makes enough to live on.
WHY IT’S OUTRAGEOUS: Despite pledges to “vigorously enforce the federal labor laws” on child labor, these were the first major agricultural fines in the two years since the press exposed very young children picking blueberries in Michigan.