AFT: In Our Own Backyard

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About this Project

The American Federation of Teachers has been active for many years in the fight to end child labor and to promote high-quality universal education for all children. The mission of our 1.4 million-member union includes promoting democracy, human rights and freedom in our union, in our nation and throughout the world. For that reason, when a group of AFT teacher members saw a segment of the film Stolen Childhoods about American children working in Texas onion fields, they were stunned. “I can’t believe this is happening right in our own backyard,” one said. They agreed that the hidden problem of child labor in the United States was a compelling topic that would interest students. The teachers wanted tools not only to teach their students about this problem, but also to help them consider steps that could be taken to address it. That was the genesis of this project to develop classroom resources on child farmworkers in America.

The AFT is a leading member of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), a national network of organizations committed to ending the exploitation of child labor. This Web site and accompanying teaching materials were developed by AFT in collaboration with the CLC and several of its member organizations. The AFT is especially grateful to Galen Films and Romano Productions for permission to use the footage from Stolen Childhoods that inspired the creation of this educational resource. Photographs throughout this site and accompanying materials were generously provided by Reid Maki, formerly with the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), as part of the Children in the Fields Campaign and by Robin Romano, a photographer and documentary filmmaker. As director of photography for Stolen Childhoods, Romano traveled around the world to document the exploitation of child laborers.

The high school civics teachers who volunteered their time to help shape these materials are: Kate Botta-Raso and Erin Lasky, Colonie Central High School, Albany, N.Y.; Martina Grant and Carrie Sanchez, Forest Hills High School, New York City; and Debra Lesser, Justice Resource Center, New York City Public Schools.

Special appreciation also goes to the following organizations and individuals who were instrumental in developing this project:. Darlene Adkins Kerr, Child Labor Coalition; David Strauss, Heather Anderson and Ben Hess, AFOP; James Leonard, Farmworker Justice; and Roger Rosenthal, Migrant Legal Action Program.

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