The next time you rip open a bag of Cheetos or pour yourself a bowl of Cheerios, or don your Fruit of the Looms, think about the the children as young as 12 who helped bring these products to the comfort of your home. That's right. The exploitation of children is alive and well right here in the United States.
The New York Times recently published an exposé of American employers, including Hearthside Food Solutions in Grand Rapids, Michigan with documented evidence showing that companies like this will look the other way and hire kids who are obviously under 18 and who present a fake ID. These children include 12-year-old roofers in Tennessee and Florida, workers in slaughterhouses in North Carolina, Delaware, and Mississippi, minors tending power saws in a lumber factory in South Dakota, preteens milking cows in Vermont, and 13 year old girls washing sheets at a swanky hotel in Virginia. This is all despite labor laws that have been in place for close to a hundred years. Many of these young people are too tired to attend school once they finish their shifts.
These kids are among the 250,000 who arrived here alone in the last 2 years from Central and South America, fleeing desperate situations in their home countries. A lot of the money they earn is sent back home, which is oftentimes the only way their families can avoid starving to death.
Hearthside, which has 39 factories in the United States, has been cited for 34 safety violations by OSHA since 2019. At least 11 workers lost fingers, hands, or even entire limbs. When accused of knowingly hiring juveniles and flaunting safety procedures, the company denied any wrongdoing, despite evidence to the contrary.