Child labor

Dick Meister: Only we can save the children


By Dick Meister

Dick Meister, former labor editor of the SF Chronicle and KQED-Newsroom, has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century. Contact him through his website,, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

I remember checking into a small hotel in Coimbra, Portugal, with my wife Gerry in 1962, three very heavy suitcases in tow. Rushing out at the urgent clang of the desk clerk's bell came a uniformed bellhop. A midget, I supposed. But, no, it was a child, nine, maybe ten years old.

He smiled shyly and tugged at the suitcases, eager to lug them up the long, narrow staircases that led to our room. I wouldn't let go, but the clerk insisted. "It's his job," senhor."

It was indeed his job, one that paid poorly and kept him from school – but a job necessary for his family's survival. Read more »