News about major brands using sweat shops, underpaid, or underage labor in countries with less developed worker protections has come up again and again, always prompting a wave of news furor and then fading again without any visible progress on the matter. And it felt the same in 2019, when news, unconfirmed at first, broke worldwide about China using prison labor camps full of Uighur Muslims, slave labor, to make products for export. 

In the spring of 2020, reports confirmed that products for Nike, Apple, General Motors, Microsoft and dozens of other international giants were all coming from these camps, prompting a new wave of media attention. And this time, hopefully, something will at last change.

Republican Josh Hawley, Junior Senator for Missouri, is introducing a bill which would penalize large American companies for using products made by slave labor anywhere in the world. His bill, the Slave-Free Business Certification Act (SFBCA) would hold businesses responsible for auditing their supply chains and certifying that their products, and the supplies which make them, are free of forced labor. Companies would be fined up to half a billion dollars for a failure to comply.

“Corporate America and the celebrities that hawk their products talk up corporate social responsibility and social justice at home while making millions of dollars off the slave labor that assembles their products,” Hawley said. “Executives build [socially aware], progressive brands for American consumers, but happily outsource labor to Chinese concentration camps.”

SFPCA would apply to companies earning more than $500 million a year gross profits, and would hold CEOS and other decision-makers in those companies personally responsible for infractions, with potentially criminal consequences.

Alongside companies who profit from explicitly slave labor like the Chinese labor camps, the bill would also put pressure on businesses like Starbucks, Nespresso, and Godiva, whose supply chains are full of child labor and workers denied basic human rights.

Source: The Federalist

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