HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Il.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is leading a group of Democratic Senators in a letter to the Department of Labor (DOL), urging them to continue holding companies accountable for violations of child labor laws. This follows recent reports of increased use of noncitizen children in dangerous jobs.

In the letter, the Senators commend the DOL for holding businesses accountable that employ these children in dangerous conditions for long hours. The Department’s efforts include not only holding the subcontractors accountable who hire the children, but also the brands that hire the subcontractors.

The Senators wrote, “We appreciate the efforts the Biden Administration and the Department of Labor are taking to eliminate this scourge.  However, these recent reports highlight the need to take further steps to protect children from dangerous employment that could result in injury and even death.”

The Senators are also asking the DOL to consider additional ways to provide eligible noncitizen youth access to safe and appropriate job opportunities. “The Department has received funding from Congress to support programs that provide workforce development opportunities to ensure that youth have access to age-appropriate jobs and subsidized training.  These programs offer opportunities for training and skills development to attain an on-ramp to quality career pathways.  The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) authorizes several youth-targeted programs, which are the primary DOL-administered workforce development programs for youth.

“However, it is often difficult for such vulnerable children to navigate our labor laws without assistance.  Some may not understand laws related to applying for work permits, and may not be aware that certain jobs, such as cleaning positions in a meatpacking plant, are extremely dangerous and unlawful.  We strongly encourage DOL to ensure that workforce development programs and opportunities are accessible in areas that need them most, including areas of the country where repeated child labor exploitation has occurred,” the Senators continued.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing, titled “Ensuring the Safety and Well-Being of Unaccompanied Children, Part II.” The hearing will bild on the Committee’s previous hearing on this issue in June, which included testimony from child welfare and labor experts.

You can read the full letter here.