Nearly every hot, humid North Carolina summer morning, 15-year-old Eddie Ramirez wakes up at 4am, slips on a thick, long sleeve T-shirt and boards a school bus with his mother in Snow Hill, North Carolina. The bus is cramped – not with students, but with up to 40 migrant farm workers on the way to work in a tobacco field.
Ramirez began this work – hand-picking tobacco for shifts up to 12 hours in his school holidays and sometimes during term – when he was just 12 years old.
He is among 141 youth farm workers featured in a report released Wednesday by international human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW), documenting child labor in tobacco fields in the southern United States. Eighty children come from North Carolina, with the rest from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
The 138-page report, Tobacco’s Hidden Children, reveals the dangers and harmful conditions of tobacco work. It emphasizes the US lagging behind Brazil and India, the top two tobacco producers in the world, who have banned children from working in their fields.
Read the full article in The Guardian here.