PRESS RELEASE: Child Labor Coalition Applauds State Department Downgrade of Uzbekistan in the Trafficking-in-Persons Report

For immediate release: June 25, 2013
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org

On June 19 the US placed Uzbekistan in the lowest rank in the Global Trafficking in Persons Report for failing to end forced labor, forced child labor, and curb human trafficking in 2012
(Washington) –The 30-member Child Labor Coalition (CLC) applauds the Department of State’s decision June 19th to downgrade Uzbekistan to Tier 3 in the Global Trafficking in Persons Report (J/TIP) ranking system. The report is an annual assessment of human trafficking around the world and the efforts of individual governments to combat it. Uzbekistan has been the focus of advocacy by the Child Labor Coalition and the Cotton Campaign because of widespread forced labor of adults and children to harvest the nation’s cotton crop.

“State-demanded forced labor of children and adults to harvest cotton each fall in Uzbekistan has long-been a grave concern,” noted CLC co-chair Sally Greenberg, the executive director of the National Consumers League. “By moving Uzbekistan to Tier III, the US government is telling the world that Uzbek leaders need to confront and remedy their use of forced adult and child labor immediately, and they must open their cotton harvest to International Labour Organization (ILO) monitoring to ensure that workers are laboring willingly.”

“We urge the Uzbek government to follow the recommendation of the tripartite ILO, and reiterated by the United States in this report, to invite a high-level ILO mission to monitor the fall harvest by August 1,” said Dr. Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers. “Delays would result in another year in which more than a million children and adults are forced to pick cotton and present a strong argument for the U.S. to proceed with sanctions, as provided for in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.”

“Although we saw a reduction in very young children forced to harvest cotton last year, we also saw an increase in the number of older teens aged 15 to 17, who were forced to pick cotton,” noted Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum and the chair of the CLC’s International Issues Committee. “We are still receiving reports about the sporadic use of young children in the cotton fields; the work is arduous and conducted under extremely taxing conditions.”

In addition to teens and colleges students, government employees – including teachers, doctors, nurses, and soldiers – and private business employees are forced to pick cotton under threat of dismissal from work, the loss of salary, pensions and welfare benefits, notes the Cotton Campaign.

More than 130 garment manufacturers have signed a pledge that they will “commit to not knowingly source Uzbek cotton for the manufacturing of any of our products until the Government of Uzbekistan ends the practice of forced child or adult labor in its cotton sector.”

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