Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Advocating for an end to Child Labor and Forced Labor

October 29, 2014

  Siobhan Spiak, Peace and Conflict Resolution Intern

This week, I had my first experience of researching legislation and voting records of Congressional members. I am researching the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014 (H.R. 4842).

Many of our goods are produced far away from where they are bought. It is difficult to ensure fair labor practices in such opaque supply chains. There are many documented cases of adult and even child laborers exploited through force, fraud or coercion. This bill would require retail sellers and manufacturers to verify, audit and certify that their direct suppliers are maintaining standard labor practices.

After studying the bill and what it requests of the United States, I reviewed the voting record of several members of Congress who represent voting districts where Columbans live and serve in the U.S. I also investigated if any of these elected officials are members of the House Committees for Education and for Financial Services, the two committees the bill will need to pass through.

If passed, the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014 (H.R. 4842), would require companies with annual global receipts over US$100,000,000 to submit annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The reports would illustrate what measures the companies have taken to “identify and address conditions of forced labor, slavery, human trafficking, and the worst forms of child labor within the company’s supply chain.” In doing so, this would ensure the accountability of companies to be aware of their impact on human rights within their own supply chains as well as the dignity of the neighboring communities who inhabit those production locations.

A few laws have already paved the way for transparency in the supply chains of companies, such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Law which requires all manufactures and retailers performing business within California with over US$100 million in global gross receipts need to report their identification and address the process of human trafficking and slavery within their supply chain.

H.R. 4842 would apply those requirements to all sectors of the SEC. Many Columban Fathers and lay missionaries have served communities affected by the lack of accountability from large multinational companies and have bared witness to atrocities that have devastated the youth population of entire villages. In Peru, slave labor occurs in illegal mining operations, extracting gold. In the Philippines, Columban Fr. Shay Cullen has witnessed the trauma when laws against such exploitation are not enforced, making it easy for foreign national companies to disregard the human rights of their workers. In Taiwan, Columbans at the Hope Workers Center offer spiritual support and social services to migrants who are exploited by employers.

This is why H.R. 4842 is so important. Companies will be held accountable for their actions in their supply chain and be held accountable for forced and child labor, slavery, and human trafficking around the world.