On Monday the Department of Labor confirmed that child labor is not a thing of the past in the United States: Since 2018, child labor has gone up 69%. To combat this issue the Biden administration announced steps and precautions that plans to take to combat this issue.

The news: The department’s decision to crack down on child labor came just days after The New York Times published a story uncovering the exploitation of migrant children coming from the southern border.

  • Hannah Dreier, the author of the Times article, told CBS that the Times released the investigative piece on Saturday, and the Biden administration had gone to work on the issue by Sunday and released its report on Monday.
  • The Labor Department plans to up its efforts by entering companies across the United States with the mission of finding minors who are employed in violation of child labor laws, according to the report.
  • “We see every day the scourge of child labor in this country, and we have a legal and a moral obligation to take every step in our power to prevent it. Too often, companies look the other way and claim that their staffing agency, or their subcontractor or supplier is responsible. Everyone has a responsibility here,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “This is not a 19th century problem — this is a today problem. We need Congress to come to the table, we need states to come to the table. This is a problem that will take all of us to stop.”

The numbers: The Department of Labor stated that in the last fiscal year, it found that the 835 companies it investigated had employed more than 3,800 children.

  • Currently, the maximum penalty for breaking child labor laws is a fine of $15,138 per child. “This is not high enough to be a deterrent for major profitable companies,” the DOL said.

Details: The New York Times found that the following major companies are some that have sold products made by child labor at some point in the supply chain:

  • Ben and Jerry’s.
  • Fruit of the Loom.
  • Ford.
  • General Motors.
  • J. Crew.
  • Walmart.
  • Whole Foods.
  • Target.
  • General Mills.
  • Frito-Lay.
  • Quaker Oats.

Course of action: The Labor Department announced the following steps it will be taking to identify where child labor laws are being violated and how to hold those companies responsible.

  • A Department of Labor-led interagency task force will be created to “combat child labor exploitation.”
  • A strategic enforcement initiative will be created to find where child labor is most likely to happen, and prevent it from happening.
  • The department plans to hold all employers accountable by “applying further scrutiny” to companies that do business with employers who use child labor.
  • The department will mandate follow-up calls to “any child who calls the Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center with a safety concern.”
  • Post-release services for children who have entered the U.S. to work unaccompanied will be increased.
  • Funding for the Department of Labor’s enforcement agencies will be increased.
  • The department will urge Congress to increase monetary penalties for companies that use child labor.
  • New training and information will be released for unaccompanied children so that they are made aware of their rights.