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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

Uzbekistan: U.S. Report Fails Child Labor Victims–Unwillingness to Impose Meaningful Consequences Allows Abuses to Continue

[The following is a press release from the Cotton Campaign regarding a letter to the State Department in which the CLC joined more than 40 groups to express disappointment about the failure to cite Uzbekistan for forced labor and child labor abuses in its cotton harvest.]

(Washington, DC, June 21, 2012) – The United States government’s decision not to cite Uzbekistan for its widespread practice of forced and child labor in the country’s cotton sector sends the wrong message to the Uzbek government, a broad coalition of groups said in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on June 19, 2012. The coalition called on US officials to press the Uzbek government to invite the International Labour Organization (ILO) to monitor the 2012 cotton harvest.

The letter followed the US government’s release on June 19 of its annual Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) report. The report fails to cite Uzbekistan as a country that does not comply with minimal standards to combat forced and child labor, or a “Tier III country,” the groups said. Under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), the Uzbek government should have demonstrated that it was making “significant efforts” to eliminate forced labor to avoid a downgrade to Tier III, which would carry the threat of sanctions.

“Forced labor of adults and children is human trafficking under US law,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia Researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The failure to classify Uzbekistan properly for the fifth straight year is wholly inconsistent with the well-documented evidence of its systematic abuses. The US effectively sent a message to Uzbek authorities that enslaving children for profit in abusive conditions is cost-free.”

The coalition consists of human rights, trade union, apparel industry, retail, investor, and other nongovernmental organizations, including groups from Uzbekistan.

Uzbek authorities use a cotton production system that in practice relies on the use of forced labor, while consistently denying that forced labor is used and cracking down on rights activists who try to monitor it. Reports about the 2011 harvest by local monitoring groups and academic studies highlighted the coercion of children as young as 10 and adults to pick cotton and to fulfill government quotas.

The State Department report identifies the Uzbek government’s state quota system for cotton production as a root cause of the practice of forced labor. However, even though Tashkent has clearly made no progress in addressing the issue, the State Department waived the threat of sanctions, as it did last year.

Read more

Indian Advocates Find Lots of Children Working in Cotton

Bindu Shajan Perappadan

[from The Hindu, 2012]

Gross violation: NCPCR members found child labourers in large numbers in Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

The latest NCPCR survey report reveals large-scale child labour in Bt cotton production; asks stakeholders to prepare an action plan to eliminate it

Forced to work for 14-hours at a stretch and even carry pesticides on their back, the plight children engaged as child labour in the Bt cotton production has often gone unnoticed, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has said in its latest survey report.

To rescue these children and in an effort to curb the growing problem of child labour in Bt cotton fields in some states, the Commission in collaboration with the labour department of Andhra Pradesh, conducted a State-wide meeting with BT cotton seed companies in Hyderabad in May.

“Child labour is being engaged in large numbers in Bt cotton fields in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. They are forced to work for 14 hours and even carry pesticides exposing themselves to toxins,” said Commission member Dr. Yogesh Dube who visited the area. “Plants producing Bt cotton seeds require children of low height for cross pollination. Besides children make easy and cheap labour,” he added. Read more

India’s Exploited Child Cotton Workers

By Humphrey HawksleyBBC News, Gujarat

Civil rights activist Jignesh Mevani describes the conditions endured by India’s child cotton workers

The noise was deafening and air in the factory in northern Gujarat was so thick with cotton dust it was like a snowstorm at night.

Women and girls, some no more than 10 or 11, fed machines with raw cotton picked from the nearby fields.

It is a process known as ginning – one end of a commercial supply chain that ends up as clothes and textiles in high street shops around the world. Globally, annual revenues from the industry are measured in the trillions of dollars.

Many household-name retailers concede they do not know exactly how the cotton they use is farmed and processed. Yet, for years, labour activists here have campaigned for their help.

Missing parents

“The workers’ lives are terrible,” said Jignesh Mevani, an activist who was our guide. “They are not paid the minimum wage. There are no safety precautions. There are many children.” Read more