Department of Labor Lists Cocoa, Cotton and Other Goods as Products Made by Forced, Child Labor

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brian Campbell, brian.campbell@ilrf.org, 202-347-4100 x102
Tim Newman, tim.newman@ilrf.org, 202-347-4100 x113 or 617-823-9464

Department of Labor Lists Cocoa, Cotton and Other Goods as Products Made by Forced, Child Labor

WASHINGTON - Today, the US Department of Labor (DOL) released a list of
goods believed to have been produced using forced or child labor globally.  The
list includes a number of industries where the International Labor Rights Forum
(ILRF) has identified these labor rights abuses to occur including cocoa,
cotton, tobacco and rubber.

As part of the Trafficking Victims
Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA of 2005), DOL's Bureau of
International Labor Affairs (ILAB) was tasked with "develop[ing] and
mak[ing] available to the public a list of goods from countries that the Bureau
of International Labor Affairs has reason to believe are produced by forced
labor or child labor in violation of international standards."  ILRF is
pleased to see that this useful resource has been publicly released after years
of work.

Since 2001, ILRF has been pushing US-based
cocoa importers and chocolate companies like Hershey to take effective action
to end the use of child, trafficked and forced labor on West African cocoa
farms.  ILRF Executive Director Bama Athreya said, "By including
cocoa on the list of products made by child labor, the US government has acknowledged the
lack of progress the chocolate industry has made in eliminating serious labor
rights abuses in this sector, despite years of promises."  Recent events
confirm the appropriateness of including cocoa on the list.  In June of this
year, INTERPOL rescued children in Cote d'Ivoire who had been
trafficked from neighboring countries as part of an ongoing system of
trafficking and forced labor in the West African cocoa industry.   

ILRF has also been working to stop forced
and child labor in the cotton industry globally, especially in Uzbekistan. 
Reports published by ILRF and its global partners have confirmed the ongoing
removal of thousands of children from schools across Uzbekistan who are forced to pick
cotton during harvest season.    

The inclusion of tobacco on the list
indicates that the US
government believes that industry efforts to eliminate child labor in this
sector have not been sufficient.  Labor rights abuses in tobacco production
continue in countries like Malawi
where a recent report by PLAN International found that thousands of children as
young as five work on tobacco estates and suffer nicotine poisoning from being
exposed to the equivalent of 50 cigarettes a day.

Other additional products that ILRF included
in its testimony to the Department of Labor that appear on the official
list are: cotton from Tajikistan,
cottonseed and stones from India,
sugarcane from Guatemala and
surgical instruments from Pakistan. 
ILRF also has a long history of working to eliminate child labor in the soccer
ball industry in India.

Commenting on the importance of the list, Brian Campbell, ILRF Director of Policy and Legal Programs, said,
"This list is a critical tool that consumers and businesses can use to
identify the sectors where forced and child labor abuses continue.  As I stated
in ILRF's testimony
to the Department of Labor last year, this list helps to focus attention on problematic
sectors and the challenge now is to implement business practices that lead to a
higher labor standards and living and working conditions for workers."

Bama
Athreya
added, "We hope that the Department
of Labor will continue to welcome additional information regarding the sectors
included on the list as well as other industries using forced and child labor. 
A regular, at least annual, update of this list will help to show progress or
lack thereof in addressing these abuses and identify new areas on which to
focus."

Now that the list has been published, a
Consultative Group established as part
of the Farm Bill
in 2008 will work to "develop the recommendations
for best practices for the voluntary, third-party certification
initiative" to ensure that agricultural products imported or sold in the
US are not made by child labor.  ILRF hopes that the members of the
Consultative Group will be announced shortly and that this body will work
swiftly and effectively to ensure that child and forced labor is eliminated
from the production of US agricultural imports, especially cocoa, cotton,
tobacco and rubber.

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ILRF is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. ILRF serves a unique role among human rights organizations as advocates for and with working poor around the world. We believe that all workers have the right to a safe working environment where they are treated with dignity and respect, and where they can organize freely to defend and promote their rights and interests.

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