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.

Number of Companies Pledging to Avoid Uzbek Cotton Zooms Past 100

The Cotton Campaign recently passed an important milestone in the fight to protect children in Uzbekistan from forced child labor: more than 100 companies have signed a pledge to try to avoid purchasing Uzbek cotton. Consumers will recognize a lot of the names on the list—Levis Strauss, Fruit of the Loom, GAP, Ann Taylor, Wal-Mart—comprising many of the largest apparel companies in the world. To date, 124 companies have signed the pledge.

Each fall, the country of Uzbekistan compels hundreds of thousands of school children to leave their classrooms and perform back-breaking labor harvesting cotton. The children typically earn only pennies for their work and experience harsh, uncomfortable conditions. In many countries of the world cotton is harvested with machinery, but in Uzbekistan using school children, college students and adults forced into labor has proven to be a cheap solution to harvest needs and picking by hand results in cotton that can draw top prices. Ruled by a totalitarian dictator, Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan is the only country in the world whose government is compelling the widespread use of child labor for non-military purposes.

For years, the members of the Cotton Campaign, including the National Consumers League (NCL) and the Child Labor Coalition, which NCL co-chairs with the American Federation of Teachers, have applied pressure on companies that use cotton to eliminate their use of Uzbek cotton until Uzbek leaders allows the International Labour Organization to monitor the cotton harvest and until Uzbekistan eliminates exploitative child labor and forced adult labor from the harvest.

According to reports coming out of Uzbekistan during this fall’s harvest, more schools have remained open this year and the use of child labor has fallen somewhat. Apparently, Uzbekistan has allowed some younger children to focus on their studies by turning to increased forced labor of older kids in the 15- to 19-year-old range. Advocates see this as a sign that pressure is beginning to work. And having 100 companies sign the pledge to avoid Uzbek cotton sends a powerful message to Uzbekistan: you must do more to eliminate the use of forced labor and child labor and you must let the ILO monitor your next cotton harvest.

Read more

New Report Grades Apparel Companies on Efforts to Combat Slavery

News from Free2Work and Not for Sale:

We are pleased to announce the release of a report ranking over 300 apparel brands on their efforts to address child and forced labor.   Modern-day slavery, which currently affects more than 30 million people, is used throughout the production of many clothing products sold on U.S. shelves.  Apparel Industry Trends: From Farm to Factory is the first comprehensive report of its kind.

The report urges the clothing sector forward by offering best practice examples from industry leaders and by pointing out brands that are fueling modern-day slavery through their negligence.  Free2Work grades are only an indication of a company’s efforts against slavery–not of broader working conditions.  We hope this will help urge the industry forward in creating freedom and dignity, as well as help companies and consumers understand how they are connected to labor abuses within the products they produce and consume.

The report was pre-released in a presentation on Nov. 13 in Ankara, Turkey, at the United Nations General Assembly expert group meeting on “Human Trafficking & Global Supply Chains.” The meeting included corporate, government, labor union, and NGO leaders from around the globe.

In the coming weeks, we will be hosting a webinar for interested parties to learn more about this comprehensive report. Once we have settled upon an exact date and time, we will pass along the information.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to end child and forced labor in our lifetime.… Read the rest

Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign Welcomes Hershey’s Announcement to Source 100% Certified Cocoa by 2020

[News from the Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign:]

Coalition urges Hershey and all chocolate companies to go 100% Fair Trade

The Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign (www.raisethebarhershey.org) welcomed today’s announcement from the Hershey Co. (HSY) that it will be certifying 100 percent of its cocoa by 2020 and urged the chocolate giant to go 100 percent Fair Trade with incremental benchmarks.  Hershey appeared to join its main rival Mars in announcing its target for certification with a 2020 deadline.  Many other smaller chocolate companies are already 100 percent certified, a number of them using Fair Trade certification, the most rigorous certification for identifying and remediating the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign released the following joint statement:

“The Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign is pleased that Hershey is announcing 100 percent certification for its cocoa by 2020. To truly address child labor, Hershey needs to make sure it is certifying all of its cocoa Fair Trade, the only certification that adequately addresses the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Hershey should certify and label one of its top-selling, brand name bars Fair Trade within the next year, and should certify and label all of its chocolates Fair Trade by 2020.  We urge Hershey to reveal how the company plans to get to 100% certification by disclosing the certifiers it will be working with as well as a timeline for converting specific product lines.

The Raise the Bar Hershey campaign, joined by over 150,000 consumers, union allies, religious groups, and over 40 food co-ops and natural grocers has been pressuring Hershey to address child labor for several years.  Just this week, Whole Foods Market (WFM) announced that it was removing Hershey’s Scharffen Berger line from its shelves until Hershey took steps to address child labor in its supply chain. The Raise the Bar, Hershey Campaign! and its allies will continue to encourage Hershey, and other chocolate companies, to improve labor practices on cocoa farms and plantations.”

Read more

Samsung to review 250 Chinese suppliers for labor violations

SEOUL | Tue Sep 4, 2012 4:28am IST

(Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co said on Monday it would inspect 250 Chinese companies which make products for the South Korean firm to ensure no labor laws are broken after a U.S.-based group accused one of its suppliers of using child labor.

Samsung also said its audit into working conditions at an HEG Electronics facility in Huizhou in southern China found no under-aged workers. New York-based China Labor Watch said last month seven children younger than 16 were working in the factory that makes phones and DVD players for Samsung.

But Samsung said the audit identified several instances of inadequate management and potentially unsafe practices such as overtime beyond local regulations, improper safety measures and a system of fines for tardiness or absences.

“Samsung has demanded that HEG immediately improve its working conditions… If HEG fails to meet Samsung’s zero tolerance policy on child labor, the contract will be immediately severed,” Samsung said in a statement.

It said it would conduct inspections for all 105 supplier companies in China which produce goods solely for Samsung by the end of September, and review, via documentation, by the end of the year another 144 suppliers that makes products for it and other firms.

“If supplier companies are found to be in violation of our policies and corrective actions not taken, Samsung will terminate its contract with those supplier companies,” Samsung said.

The move follows allegations earlier this year that Apple Inc’s products were assembled in China amid multiple violations of labor law, including extreme hours.

Read more