Child Labor Back in Vogue Under Republican Rapacious Capitalism. #1: The Child Roofers

By Thomas
December 21, 2023

Republicans have not only taken us back in time in race relations, closer to the days when racism was accepted as normal. (Some would say, back to the days of legal racism under segregation). Recent revelations show Republicans' anti-regulation fervor has allowed the  revival of the practice of child labor, as practiced under unfettered 18th-19th Century capitalism.

Children Risk Their Lives Building America’s Roofs

  • Federal law bars anyone under 18 from roofing because it’s so dangerous. But across the U.S., migrant children do this work anyway.
  • They call themselves “ruferitos” on social media. In videos like these, they talk about being underage and pose on rooftops and ladders, often without the required safety gear.
  • One slip can be fatal.
  • The New York Times spoke with more than 100 child roofers in nearly two dozen states, including some who began at elementary-school age.
  • They wake before dawn to be driven to distant job sites, sometimes crossing state lines. They carry heavy bundles of shingles that leave their arms shaking. They work through heat waves on black-tar rooftops that scorch their hands.

The Times tells what happened to several child roofers who were severely injured on the job.

Antoni slammed into a concrete patio after slipping and falling nearly 30 feet. He lay in a coma with severe brain trauma. His skull was fractured, a lung was punctured and he was bleeding internally throughout his body. After three months, he woke up, and the doctors said he could leave. No rehabilitation facility would accept him without health insurance. Unable to speak or stand, he went back to the trailer he had been sharing with his uncle’s family. He stayed inside for the next several months.

A 16-year-old fell off a roof in Arkansas and shattered his back. A 15-year-old in Florida was burned all over after he slipped from a roof and onto a vat of hot tar. A child in Illinois stepped through a skylight and fractured his spine.

Terry Coonan, who runs a human rights center at Florida State University, tells how one 15-year-old boy from Central America, who had been traveling around the country with a crew boss, was abandoned last year after being injured on a work site. The boy was found alone and crying in a ditch. “He was of no more use,” Mr. Coonan said.

Children working on construction sites are six times as likely to be killed as minors doing other work, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Roofing is particularly risky; it is the most dangerous job for minors other than agricultural work, studies show.

Labor organizers and social workers say they are seeing more migrant children suffer serious injuries on roofing crews in recent years.

FULL STORY with more about Republican-tolerated child carnage

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