This isn’t a repeat from the 19th century
California has introduced a law requiring Apple and thousands of others to make sure that slave labour isn’t part of the supply chain.
According to Reuters, the law was written following allegations that Apple and Gap used forced labour to create their products.
The law will force manufacturers to explain how they guard against slavery and human trafficking throughout their supply chain. More than 3,200 major companies which do business in California will be required to disclose steps they take, if any, to ensure their suppliers and partners do not use forced labour.
Companies will risk getting sued by the state attorney general if they flout that law.
Apple declined to comment on the new legislation but the law comes after controversy about working conditions at huge supplier Foxconn, where there were a string of suicides.
However, it’s not clear how this law could cause Apple much trouble as the last we heard, none of the workers at Foxconn were actually forced to work there.
Apparently the law defines child labour and slavery as forced labour. Apple had some problems with some of its suppliers using child labour, but said that it sorted that out.
Justin Dillon, head of advocacy group slaveryfootprint.org, points to Apple and Gap as companies that have made major efforts to improve and communicate their policies following “labour issues” at their foreign suppliers.
But he said that the law requires companies to do much more to stop the practice.
The law will affect the electronics and clothing industries the most. Intel said third-party audits of key suppliers cover slavery, but not human trafficking. It said it will start auditing for human trafficking early next year.
The first place to ban slavery was Achaemenid Persia in 550 BC, while one of the last places was Alaska in 1870. The last place in the world to ban slavery was Mauritania in 1981.