Some corporations are pursuing policies that exacerbate child labor. Others are attempting to ameliorate child labor. Consumers can use this section to help influence their purchasing decisions.

How a small financial transaction tax might be used to help us end child slavery and the worst forms of child labor in the next nine years

By Reid Maki

The UN has set a very ambitious goal—one of the sustainable development goals adopted last year—of eliminating child labor, child slavery, forced child labor, and the use of child soldiers in the next nine years. It’s daunting to think about. Nearly 170 million children remain in child labor despite a one-third reduction in the number of children trapped in child labor over the last 15 years. Eighty-five million children remain in hazardous child labor, working in brothels, mines, and places no child should be sent. Nearly six million children remain in child slavery.

How is the world to achieve this laudable, essential goal? The answer is it cannot—not without a significant infusion of resources. More than 120 million children who should be in school are not. A billion children are illiterate. Functioning schools are a critical element in the battle against child labor and child slavery. In West Africa, where two million plus children toil on cocoa plantations to harvest the main ingredient in chocolate, more than 3,000 schools are needed to provide children with educational alternatives to hazardous work.

"The Same Heart" is a documentary film exploring the need for revenues to protect children and how a financial transaction tax might work.

“The Same Heart” is a documentary film exploring the need for revenues to protect children and how a financial transaction tax might work.

Clearly, hundreds of billions of dollars are needed over the next nine years. Is the global community likely to provide this funding? Probably not, unless there are new revenue sources from which they can draw the money from.

Fortunately, the European Community and the US Congress is working on a new revenue source: a financial transaction tax that would be applied to all financial transactions like stock or derivative trades and bond purchases. Because there are trillions of such trades each year in US markets alone, even a tiny tax ranging from one-tenth of one percent to a half percent could raise tens of billions of dollars. The Inclusive Prosperity Act in Congress by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Senator Barry Sanders (I-VT) hopes to do just that, and the Child Labor Coalition, which NCL co-chairs, helped organize a congressional briefing in September to help promote the concept.

Globally, FTTs might raise up to $300 billion a year. The European community is in various stages of implementing an FTT in over 10 countries. The idea is not new. The US had an FTT in the past and continues to pay for the Securities and Exchange Commission with a very tiny FTT. Japan successfully raised billions with an FTT in the 1990s before conservative forces led them to abandon the tax.

An FTT would make our tax system more equitable.

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What Will 2014 Hold for Those Trying to Reduce Child Labor and Forced Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Harvest?

For several years, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which the National Consumers League co-chairs with the American Federation of Teachers, has worked closely with the Cotton Campaign to reduce child labor and forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest.

Uzbekistan, run by totalitarian dictator Islam Karimov is the only country in the world where the central government has recently played a major role in causing large-scale forced child labor.  For many years, Uzbekistan’s leaders emptied schools and literally forced school children—sometimes very small children—to harvest cotton, a grueling, painful, sometimes dangerous job. The country is one of the largest cotton producers in the world, and Uzbek cotton sometimes finds its way into the U.S. apparel industry, despite a pledge by more than 130 apparel companies that they will not knowingly use Uzbek cotton in their garments.

For years, Uzbek children worked beside similarly conscripted college students and older adults for four to eight weeks at a time, missing much-needed school in the process. The workers were paid so little that their forced labors should be considered a form of temporary slavery. Those who refused were expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits, or worse. Some harvesters have reported being beaten because they did not meet their cotton quota.  The forced labor of children and adults did not enrich struggling local farmers, but benefited the country’s ruling elite.

Despite aggressive advocacy by the Cotton Campaign, Karimov had intractably refused to ease the use of child labor and forced labor. Recently, however, the situation in Uzbekistan has shown signs of changing.

Advocacy by the Cotton Campaign led to a very surprising success in last summer, when the US State Department issued its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) country-by-country report and it included a downgrade of Uzbekistan to the lowest tier ranking, signaling that the Uzbek government was simply not doing enough to reduce forced labor and the worst forms of child labor in the country.

Although the advocacy community had worked hard and long to bring about this downgrade—and it was completely deserved—it was still something of a pleasant surprise. The US government has many strategic concerns in Uzbekistan related to supply routes for the war in Afghanistan, and it was assumed that the State Department would not be willing to issue the deserved downgrade for fear of alienating Uzbek leaders. Fortunately, the State Department honored the intent of the TIP report and in so doing, applied additional pressure to the Uzbek government.

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National Consumers League Expresses Concern over New Apple Inc. Child Labor Revelations

Apple Inc. announced today that its internal audits had found more than 106 underage employees at 11 different locations in its supply chain; it found another 70 “historical” cases of child labor. The company also said that it had terminated contracts with a Chinese supplier, Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhuou Electronics, which employed 74 workers under age 16. Auditors found eight facilities with “bonded labor” –cases in which workers were compelled to labor to pay off excessive recruiting fees.

The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization with a long history of working to reduce child labor in the U.S. and abroad, applauds the termination of supplier contracts that rely on the work of child labor. “After much criticism, it appears that Apple has finally stepped up auditing of its supply chain. We urge the company to continue on that path as aggressively as possible. With 1.5 million workers in 14 countries, the 106 children found working may be the tip of the iceberg,” noted NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg who is a co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition, which represents 28 organizations, trying to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

“Children should not be working in electronics manufacturing–with its accompanying dangers. They should be in school and allowed to realize their full potential,” added Greenberg. “Given  Apple’s enormous profitability, it’s essential the company does everything in its power to stamp out child labor. Other electronics companies should take warning, and conduct rigorous audits of their supply chains.”… Read the rest

The Real Cost of Cheap Goods is High: The Scary Truth Behind Some Christmas Ornaments

With the holidays upon us, many American look forward to trimming their Christmas tree and spending time with their loved ones, especially their children. For many kids, Christmas invokes the happiest of memories, but not all kids are so lucky.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is now the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, noted earlier this month that many children in India are virtually enslaved in sweatshops that manufacture Christmas ornaments. Check out what Brown had to say in this video and learn about the “nightmare” suffered by Indian children who make ornaments for consumers in the U.S. and other countries in the Western hemisphere.

In the video, Brown talks about a rescue raid by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) which freed 14 of the child laborers—some as young as eight—from a sweatshop in Delhi. BBA, like the Child Labor Coalition is a member of the Global March Against Child Labor, an international umbrella group that works to reduce the worst forms of child labor.

“Children are being asked to work 17, 18, 19 hours a day,” said Brown. “They are being asked to work in unsanitary conditions. They are being asked to work without sunlight. Some of them are lacerated because they are working with glass. We found these children in this basement, they were not being paid, they had been trafficked…” Several children had been beaten by their crew leaders. The rescuers actually found 12 of the children imprisoned in a locked 6-foot  by 6-foot cell

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