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Students visit McKeon office to present petitions

Posted: December 28, 2010 11:36 p.m.
Updated: December 29, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Members of the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force, a student leadership program, went to Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon’s office on Dec. 9 to present student-gathered and signed petitions urging his leadership in the protection of child farm workers in the United States.

The students wanted to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment.

The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment, or CARE, is a proposed law that would protect child farm workers by
amending the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

If passed, the act would repeal child labor exemptions that allow children, as young as 10, to work on commercial farms without the proper safe guards found in other industries, thus resulting in abusive practices of these child laborers. 

Valencia High School students Laurent Abergel and Audrey Abergel presented a fruit basket and petitions with more 800 signatures.

These signatures were gathered from seven different Los Angeles County high schools, including Canyon and Valencia high schools. Students hope that with these signatures, McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, will realize the importance of protecting all youth who work in the United States, regardless of occupation.

They are seeking his leadership in the new session of Congress to speak for all those kids who labor in the fields and many times miss out on educational opportunities.

Sadly, 55 percent of child farm workers drop out of school and do not finish high school, according to supporters of the legislation.

“We know how much Congressman McKeon values education and that’s why we think he is the logical person to lead his Republican colleagues in advancing legislation to protect children who work on U.S. farms,” said Valencia junior Laurent Abergel as he presented the information to one of McKeon’s staff members.   

“I don’t think it’s fair that I get the opportunity to receive at least minimum wage, a safe working environment and protection of my education as a working student and these child farm workers don’t,” junior Audrey Abergel said as she presented the fruit basket to McKeon’s office.

“I hope that McKeon will support this act because I know that it will ensure child farm workers the same rights as me or any other privileged Santa Clarita student.” 

Audrey Abergel is a Valencia High School student and co-president of Valencia High School’s Human Rights Watch Student Task Force.


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