Sunday, September 13, 2009

I received this email today: I don't get political too often but this just makes my blood boil.

After receiving over 5,400 letters from community members, the Department of Labor released their long-awaited report on goods produced by child labor and forced labor today. Thank you all for urging DOL to release this important tool for consumers!

This list was mandated by anti-trafficking legislation back in 2005, but the Bush administration dragged their feet for years. Now, thanks to your voices and the hard work of NGOs like Polaris Project and the International Labor Rights Forum, it's finally here. This list is a huge boon for consumers who want to choose slave-free products. With this list, we as consumers can finally hold companies and countries accountable for the slavery they use in making the goods we buy, and we can decisively take action to prevent slavery in the production of consumer goods. Today, we as consumers are more powerful to end slavery than ever before. And you, through, helped make that happen.

The report tops out at a daunting 194 pages, and can be read in it's entirety here. But let's face it -- no one wants to read 194 page government report, no matter how useful it may be. So here are some of the highlights I've found in my initial read-through:

  • The most common goods which have significant incidence of forced and/or child labor are cotton, sugarcane, tobacco, coffee, rice, and cocoa in agriculture; bricks, garments, carpets, and footwear in manufacturing; and gold and coal in mined or quarried goods.
  • 122 goods in 58 countries are produced with a significant incidence of forced labor, child labor, or both.
  • More goods were found to be made with child labor than forced labor.

There's a long, detailed list that's a little blandly formatted, but it indicates whether goods in a certain country are made with child labor, forced labor, or both. It's important to keep in mind this doesn't mean all goods from that sector in that country were produced with exploitation. Here are some of the worst offenders for forced labor or slavery specifically:

  • Bolivia: nuts, cattle, corn, and sugar
  • Burma: bamboo, beans, bricks, jade, nuts, rice rubber, rubies, sesame, shrimp, sugarcane, sunflowers, and teak
  • China: artificial flowers, bricks, Christmas decorations, coal, cotton, electronics, garments, footwear, fireworks, nails, and toys
  • India: bricks, carpets, cottonseed, textiles, and garments
  • Nepal: bricks, carpets, textiles, and stones
  • North Korea: bricks, cement, coal, gold, iron, and textiles
  • Pakistan: bricks, carpet, coal, cotton, sugar, and wheat

I'm sure in the coming weeks and months there will be additional levels of analysis of the data the DOL has collected. For example, I would be extremely interested in the most natural next step -- finding out what companies source problem products from problem countries and ship them to the U.S. I'd also be interested in seeing the breakdown for services, which is not included in this report. Hopefully, we can look forward to that level of analysis coming soon. And if not, I might just go ahead and do it myself.

In the meantime, this report gives consumers a lot to keep in mind as they try and shop responsibly. I know I'll be checking to see if my Christmas decorations were made in China a little more closely this year.

While it is wonderful to have the proof in writing that this has been going on, what I really want to know is WHY ARE WE STILL DOING BUSINESS WITH THESE COUNTRIES?! Wake up America. Let your elected officials know that this is unacceptable, immoral and totally against our American heritage of liberty. After all, do all these things NEED to be imported? Can't we manufacture these items here and thereby stimulate the economy? I guess I just don't understand importance of having no middle class in America any longer. Perhaps we are destined to be a third world nation ourself. C'mon, get real! Write and call your elected officials and let your voice be heard about slave labor, child labor, American made products, etc.


Anonymous said...

In the UK when a big chain was shown by reporters to be buying clothing I think it was from a factory employing children being "outed" and forced to comfront public opinion, the company then made changes and now says that they don't have child labour involved anymore.

Perhaps you need a few investigative reporters to out the worst offenders too?

Donna said...

I totally agree that child and forced labor is reprehensible and disgusting. The motives of are not angelic, however, because they have a clear far left political leanings.

I believe we have become too much of a consumer driven society. And consumer demands for cheap prices drives the producers to cut expenses wherever and however they can. Labor and regulatory costs have gotten so high in this country, it is difficult for American manufacturing to compete. So the American consumer is partly to blame for the horrible labor issues in third-world countries.

And don't even get me started on waste in our society, LOL! We buy things we don't need and throw useful things away! I know I have been guilty of this, but I have made of conscious effort in the past 10 years or so to be more mindful of our purchases.

For example, we get pressure from realtors to remove perfectly good appliances that work, so that a potential buyer can have the latest model! Argh! When did it become an unwritten law that one has to remodel and throw perfectly good things out every 10 years?

Sorry to ramble on so much!

Blondie ~ Vintage Primitives said...

Hi Melanie
We do have investigative reporters and most of the time they do a great job; however no one really wants to talk about this outloud and I think it is because the economy is so lousy and these goods are cheap, therfor folks think that they won't be able to afford American made. We get news all the time about contaminated foods from other places, and in the past year about lead paint on children's toys. However no one is discussing the child/slave labor.

Blondie ~ Vintage Primitives said...

Hey Donna
I know, I know, is really out there, but, when I read this I just boiled over. And yes, don't get me started either on our wasteful society.
I really don't know what the answer is; we are in a pickle here in the good ole USA and it makes my heart so saddened.
Hey, do I get brownie points for having a washer/dryer for 29 years? LOL.

SayraH said...

Waste not, want not. That's what I always say!

Good for you, Mom! Brownie points your way! :))

Donna said...

Everything I now buy, I flip it over and LOOK where it was made...Great post Blondie!hughugs
I'm with Donna about

Anonymous said...

The child abuse is a terrible thing but I wonder also, what will happen to these families , you see as aweful as this is and I do not condone this at all, this is the only way poor families feed their babies , older children, some have 10 children or more and they eat from this kind of work. What would be a positive solution.. thank you