In 2005, Congress mandated the Department of Labor to compile a list of goods produced by forced labor or child labor. Its release will now enable consumers and shareholders to apply leverage to fight slavery worldwide. The analysis conducted by the DOL’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) found a total of 122 goods produced with forced labor, child labor, or both in 58 countries. (Quoted from polarisproject.org).
As I read this headline, I felt empowered! Yes, finally, I can do something about this! I mean, I know vaguely about bananas and fair trade coffee, and blood diamonds. I’ve even sent people links to help inform them about these types of inhumane practices. I concentrated in Human Rights law while in law school– and know that these injustices exist and should be stopped. And I know that I should be raising awareness. And now… yes, now… I can point people to a list! A concrete research study that will prove our irresponsible consumer habits, and give us a LIST of which items to boycott. (Anyone remember the proctor and gamble and Disney boycotts Southern Baptists participated in back in the early 90’s?)
Well… I’ll let you read all 194 pages in this report so you can be empowered to NOT be a part of forced or child labor. And for those of you who won’t read it, I’ll sum it up– everything from cotton to bricks to toys to pornography to ‘garments’ to sisal (????) to gold. (The actual list is only a few pages long…) And for those of you who are skeptics– we’re not just talking about children helping to pick a few tomatoes from the garden on the weekends (which my children do…)– we’re talking about children under 15 who are in vulnerable and hazardous conditions. Situations that defy accepted and defined international standards of labor. Situations that are horrendous– which would disgust and turn our stomachs if described to us in detail.
Yet we consume and consume and consume. What if I were to know the story behind each item in my house that was produced through child or forced labor? What if I were to look into the eyes of each person who was humiliated, exploited, exposed– for the sake of my ‘garment’.
I don’t feel empowered. I feel overwhelmed. I have no clue where to start making changes in my consumption so that the rights of others are respected. I can’t NOT consume. Can I really put time into learning about every product I want to buy? That would make my 1 hour Target trip a 40 hour research project. It’s not like there’s an app for that!
I pray though that my eyes are opened. That I am mindful of my purchases, of my habits, of my selfish ability to turn a blind eye. I pray that others who are passionate about seeing Human Rights respected will continue to put time into helping the consumer be responsible. (Perhaps someone will create an app??) It’s not an easy task, but now that we are aware, surely we have some responsibility to protect our fellow humans…
Please post any helpful, practical links you may know of.
CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE PDF:
SEE BELOW FOR SOME OF THE TEXT:
As a nation and as members of the global community, we reject the proposition that it is
acceptable to pursue economic gain through the forced labor of other human beings or the
exploitation of children in the workplace. However, we are aware that these problems remain
widespread in today’s global economy. Indeed, we face these problems in our own country.
The International Labor Organization estimates that over 12 million persons worldwide are
working in some form of forced labor or bondage and that more than 200 million children are at
work, many in hazardous forms of labor. The most vulnerable persons – including women,
indigenous groups, and migrants – are the most likely to fall into these exploitive situations and
the current global economic crisis has only exacerbated their vulnerability.
Most Americans and most consumers in the world market would not choose to purchase goods
known to be produced by exploited children or forced laborers at any price. Likewise, most
American companies would prefer that their global suppliers respect workers’ and children’s
fundamental rights and provide their employees with working conditions that meet acceptable
local standards. However, to translate these values and preferences into daytoday purchasing
decisions, firms and consumers need reliable information about the labor conditions under
which goods are produced. In 2005, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection
Reauthorization Act, directing the Secretary of Labor and the Department of Labor’s Bureau of
International Labor Affairs (ILAB) to compile “a list of goods that ILAB has reason to believe
were produced using forced labor or child labor” in order to provide consumers and firms with
this type of information.
This report presents that list of goods.