Child Labor a Normal Part of Capitalism

From left: Oscar Nambo Dominguez, 16, was crushed last year under an earthmover near Atlanta. Edwin Ajacalon, 14, was hit by a car while delivering food on a bike in Brooklyn. Juan Mauricio Ortiz, 15, died on his first day of work for an Alabama roofing company when he fell about 50 feet.

A new investigation by the New York Times interviewed more than 100 immigrant children working “industrial, dangerous, adult jobs in all 50 states.” Some worked as roofers, others as late-night dish washers, packaging Cheerios, in hotel laundries, in auto part factories, even in sawmills for 14-hour shifts! Some were in school, most were not. Many have been injured and a handful have even died on their jobs. And these children aren’t undocumented. The government knows they’re in the U.S., but they were released into the U.S. to so-called sponsors who are supposed to care for them. In reality, many of these “sponsors” are exploitative and abusive. This article, along with other recent reports, makes clear that child labor in the United States is widespread and systemic, and maybe even worse than previously thought.

The Biden administration went into overdrive to tell us they are on it, and that new task forces and regulation will come soon. But we can’t count on them. Hannah Dreier, the reporter who conducted the 20-state investigation, said in an interview that “these kids were not hard to find…inspectors just have not been looking for them in a proactive way.”

We shouldn’t be surprised that the Biden administration hasn’t been looking for them. He and politicians of both major parties are the political representatives of the capitalist class, and have overseen these destructive practices for decades. They have helped U.S. companies pillage Mexico, Central America, and other parts of Latin America. They have helped U.S. corporations pollute the atmosphere with carbon, driving the global heating that is killing harvests in the global south. They have allowed Central American nations to sink into gang violence that makes life for millions unlivable. They have helped create the crises at the border, which the same U.S. corporations exploit for their own profits.

The destruction of the ability to live in Central America and the exploitation of the children of Central America in U.S. workplaces are two ends of the same system. And as long as that system is in place, children will continue to be fair game for the profit-making corporations out to exploit them, whether in the U.S., the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nigeria or Peru. To end the exploitation of children, we need to end capitalism. Period.