Reporter Uncovers Child Labor Law Violations Involving Immigrant Minors in Los Angeles

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Mar 16, 2024

CNN reporter David Culver recently uncovered an unsettling child labor problem outside Los Angeles, California as he was covering various stories about immigrants who have come to the United States.

Through his reporting, Culver explained that one of the young teenagers he was interviewing worked at a chicken processing facility illegally alongside other children.

Immigration In The U.S.

CNN’s David Culver went to California to cover an ongoing problem with child labor. Culver interviewed various people who had immigrated to the United States recently.

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The Mexico-United States border, with a fence separating the land on dirt and hills.

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Culver interviewed a mother and daughter about why they came to the U.S. According to them, they had to immigrate because they had no other option. They didn’t necessarily think of the American Dream when they left their home. They only thought life would be better in the U.S.

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Ongoing Child Labor Problems

Culver also reported on a raid that was held on a chicken processing facility right outside Los Angeles — a facility the young teenager he interviewed worked at when she was only 16.

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A person wearing a hat, gloves, and a mask while working in a field in California.

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Through this interview, the young girl explained that she often dealt with knives. One time, she even almost cut herself, as the knife she was using poked through her glove.

Child Labor In California

In December of 2023, the chicken processor, Exclusive Poultry, was charged with hiring children as young as 14 to work for them illegally. According to the Labor Department, Exclusive Chicken hired these children to use sharp knives to debone chicken.

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A close-up look at a white chicken that is near others while outside in the daytime.

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Allegations also accuse Exclusive Poultry of making these minors use machinery at work, while also driving forklifts. Across the board, the company was making minors do jobs they weren’t supposed to do.

An Investigation Into Exclusive Poultry

The government first began its investigation into Exclusive Poultry when an adult worker complained to them that they hadn’t received their wages. When investigators went to the processing facility, they quickly realized things were amiss.

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Multiple people working on a California farm, with one person running with a box of items.

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These investigators noticed that some of the workers looked incredibly young. However, these young minors would not talk with them when they were approached by investigators.

Child Workers In California

According to the Labor Department, Exclusive Poultry hired many young workers to work as full-time employees. These minors worked six days a week, often working overtime. They did not attend school.

Silhouettes of palm trees on a California beach underneath an orange and pink sky.

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Many of these minors were tasked with dangerous jobs, such as using knives to debone chicken. The investigation also discovered that some children had even been injured while working.

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The Company’s Owner

In initial reporting from 2023, it was said that many workers were scared of the company’s owner, Bran. Bran allegedly yelled at workers in Spanish and threatened them, saying he would reduce their pay.

Two workers working on a farm in California in the daytime.

Source: Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

In Culver’s interview with the young teenager, he agreed to hide her face and voice, as she was scared to talk about her time working at the facility. She was worried her former boss would somehow retaliate against her.

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Exclusive Poultry Fined

As a result of this investigation, Exclusive Poultry has been fined $3.8 million for hiring and endangering children. The fine also includes money the company must pay in back wages.

Various rows of crops on a farm underneath a clear blue sky.

Source: Dan Meyers/Unsplash

Now, Exclusive Poultry will be monitored by the government for three years. The government will ensure that the company does not break child labor laws again. Exclusive Poultry must also give preferential hiring to the workers they fired in retaliation for them talking to investigators.

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A Growing Trend In Child Labor

Unfortunately, there is a growing trend in seeing more child labor cases in the United States. Many migrant minors have come to the U.S. and worked in facilities that violate child labor laws.

An industrial factory that is dark, with some light filtering through the ceiling.

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In extreme cases, some of these children have died. In July 2023, a 16-year-old boy from Guatemala was killed after he was sucked into a machine while working at a meat processing plant.

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A Rise In Child Workers

Some states have also passed laws that have allowed more children to work in the U.S. For example, Florida recently passed a child labor law that doesn’t put time regulations on home-schooled students who work.

A young boy and girl hold hands while walking outside near flowers and grass.

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The Labor Department recently revealed that the U.S. has seen an 88% increase in children being illegally employed since 2019.

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Organizations Helping Immigrants

While California and the federal government have helped stop companies from exploiting child workers, many organizations have been founded to help immigrants, as well. Odilia Romero co-founded Cielo to help migrants with translation.

People hold up signs supporting immigration in the U.S. during a rally.

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However, she also helps migrants who may have been exploited by their employers. More and more, she has seen more migrant children need to be helped after employers have exploited them.

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Stopping Illegal Migrant Child Labor

“If we go to the agricultural area of California there’s hundreds of children working there or in the restaurant, in the garment industry,” Romero explained. “We have to change that mindset that it only happens outside the U.S.”

Reporter Uncovers Child Labor Law Violations Involving Immigrant Minors in Los Angeles

Source: John Moore/Getty Images

“No, there’s labor exploitation on children here in the United States, and it happens every day, everywhere,” Romero added.

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