Modern Day Slavery in Soccer Ball Production

For Immediate Release

International Labor Rights Forum
Contact: 

Trina Tocco, International Labor Rights Forum
Trina.tocco@ilrf.org; 269-873-1000

Modern Day Slavery in Soccer Ball Production

Child Labor and Debt Bondage in India

WASHINGTON - The
International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in India released a detailed report today on the
extensive use of child labor and debt bondage in the production of soccer balls
in two villages in India:
Jalandhar and Meerut.
The research identified as many as ten companies sourcing from these two
villages which sell their soccer balls in the United States.

"While
the sporting goods industry made a commitment to stop child labor in their
supply chains when the problem was first identified in Sialkot,
Pakistan in 1997, this
report shows that bonded child labor continues in the industry and has shifted
to India,"
said Trina Tocco, Campaigns
Coordinator at the International Labor Rights Forum.

This report
follows a recently aired segment on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant
Gumbel" which details cases of child
laborers stitching soccer ball panels together between their knees with a sharp
needle - even on soccer balls emblazoned with a "CHILD LABOR
FREE" label.

After over a
decade of promised reforms from the sporting goods industry, child labor in
soccer ball production continues. Efforts in the 1990's to expose abuses
in the assembly of soccer balls in Pakistan pushed businesses into India, where
children continue to work in this industry. The report shows that industry initiatives have failed to improve the lives
of thousands of children forced to work in Meerut, India
to pay off the debt of their parents.
For years, companies have said
that they have extensive monitoring programs to make sure child labor is not
used in the production of soccer balls and yet in plain sight, children walk
through Meerut
every morning to deliver their finished balls to the local subcontractor and
pick up the supplies for that day.

In
poverty-stricken Jalandhar and Meerut,
children can be found working 10-15 hour days
for pennies a day and sometimes for no pay at all.
The children
revealed their overworked hands, covered in cuts and gashes, and complained of
severe back pain and strenuous conditions. When asked their dreams for the
future, children voiced their desires to go to school or even get to play with
the soccer balls they spend hours stitching. Even these simple dreams are out
of reach, since families are forced to put their children to work in order to
pay off a debt.

The major U.S.
sporting goods companies need to be held responsible for human rights
violations in the production of their goods. It is essential for the soccer
ball industry to again reconfirm its commitment to eradicate child labor from
its production. This time the commitment from the soccer ball industry must be
more than a piece of paper
and
must include full transparency of its supply chains, fair pricing to their

suppliers, and independent monitoring
throughout the entire supply chain.

The report is
available online at: http://www.laborrights.org/stop-child-labor/foulball-campaign/resources/1733

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The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.

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