The Clinton/Gore Administration: New Efforts to Fight Sweatshops and Child Labor Around the World & Put A More Human Face on the Global Economy
Tuesday, January 16, 2001
TODAY SECRETARY SUMMERS, ALBRIGHT, HERMAN, & NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISOR SPERLING WILL ANNOUNCE NEW ADMINISTRATION EFFORTS TO FIGHT SWEATSHOPS & CHILD LABOR. As part of the Clinton/Gore Administration's ongoing commitment to the improvement of working standards around the world, the Departments of Treasury and State will announce two new initiatives to protect workers, children, and families from abusive and unfair labor practices. These two new initiatives represent important milestones in the President's leadership on anti-child labor and sweatshop efforts, and will help strengthen the kind of global partnerships among governments, international organizations, and the private sector necessary to put a more human face on the global economy.
THE CLINTON/GORE ADMINISTRATION WILL TODAY ANNOUNCE TODAY 2 KEY INITIATIVES:
- U.S. CUSTOMS SERVICE ADVISORY ON FORCED CHILD LABOR. The Department of Treasury and the U.S. Customs Service have prepared an Advisory on Forced Child Labor to help importers, manufacturers, retailers, and other businesses identify goods that may be produced with forced or indentured child labor. The Advisory, developed in cooperation with the Advisory Committee on International Child Labor Enforcement, will facilitate voluntary compliance by describing the types of working conditions and indicators that may signal the presence of forced or indentured child labor. The Advisory will:
- Describe the types of working conditions that signal the presence of forced or indentured child labor.
- Present two sets of indicators, "red flags" and "yellow flags," that importers and others can use in seeking to determine whether specific merchandise is likely to be prohibited from importation on the grounds that it was produced with forced or indentured child labor.
- DEPARTMENT OF STATE ANTI-SWEATSHOP INITIATIVE. The Department of State will provide $3.9 million in grants to support private sector efforts to eliminate abusive working conditions and protect the health, safety, and rights of workers overseas. This new Anti-Sweatshop Initiative will support innovative strategies to combat sweatshop conditions in overseas factories that produce goods for the U.S. market. Five non-governmental and international organizations received over $3 million, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will administer an additional $600,000 for smaller grants in support of promising strategies to eliminate abusive labor conditions worldwide. Today's grants were awarded to:
- Social Accountability International will receive $1 million to implement its Social Accountability 8000 standard, which promotes human rights in the workplace.
- The American Center for International Labor Solidarity will be awarded $962,801 to implement projects for the promotion of and adherence to labor rights and standards in Central America and the Philippines.
- The Fair Labor Association, a coalition of apparel and footwear manufacturers and consumer, human and labor rights groups, will be awarded $750,000 to establish and maintain a roster of accredited external monitors around the world.
- The International Labor Organization will receive $496,974 for research on the management systems used by multinationals to assure compliance with their company's labor standards.
- The International Labor Rights Fund's will be awarded $152,880 Anti-Sweatshop to raise awareness and promote viable solutions to sexual harassment in the workplace.
PRESIDENT CLINTON HAS MADE AMERICA A LEADER IN WORKING TO PREVENT ABUSIVE CHILD LABOR AND SWEATSHOPS AROUND THE WORLD. Under President Clinton's leadership, the United States has been the international leader in advocating the improvement of working standards around the world including efforts to fight sweatshops and abusive child labor. President Clinton's key actions include:
- Calling for the elimination of abusive child labor is his last three State of the Union addresses and becoming the first U.S. President to address the International Labor Organization (ILO) conference;
- Leading the global campaign in the adoption of ILO Convention 182 to eliminate the worst forms of child labor;
- Making the U.S, the world's largest contributor to the International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), and since 1995, funding projects to prevent or remove some 225,000 children in Africa, Asia and Latin America from dangerous or abusive work in many, as well as prostitution and domestic service.
- Bringing together a diverse group of manufacturers, consumer groups, labor and rights organizations, and universities to form the Apparel Industry Partnership, the precursor to the Fair Labor Organization – a coalition dedicated to ensuring that products purchased by American consumers were not made in sweatshops overseas.
BUILDING ON THIS RECORD, THE CLINTON/GORE ADMINISTRATION HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED RESOURCES TO COMBAT ABUSIVE CHILD LABOR IN THE 2001 BUDGET:
- President Clinton has more than doubled funding from last year's level of $45 million to $92 million in FY 2001 to help eliminate abusive child labor around the world. This $92 million commitment includes:
- A 50% increase in the U.S. contribution to the ILO's International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) – to $45 million.
- $37 million in new funding for targeted bilateral educational assistance to promote school rather than work in countries where exploitative child labor is prevalent.
- Doubling – to $10 million – Customs Service resources to enforce the ban on the importation of goods made with forced or indentured child labor, denying such products access to the lucrative U.S. marketplace.
THE PROBLEM OF ABUSIVE CHILD LABOR
- The ILO estimates that there are at least 250 million working children between the ages of five and 14 in developing countries -- about half of them work full-time and do not attend school.
- Tens of millions of children work under very hazardous and abusive conditions. Around the world, young children in their formative years are exposed to hazardous conditions, including toxic and carcinogenic substances in manufacturing, dangerous conditions in mines and on sea fishing platforms, and backbreaking physical labor.
- Some children labor in bondage, are sold into prostitution, or are indentured to manufacturers, working against debts for wages so low that they will never be repaid.
- The majority (61 percent) of the working children are found in Asia, followed by Africa (32 percent), and Latin America and the Caribbean (seven percent). While Asia, by far the most populous region, has the highest number of child workers, Africa, the poorest region, has the highest proportion of child workers, with 41 percent of its children engaged in some form of economic activity.
DETAILS OF THE CUSTOMS ADVISORY ON FORCED CHILD LABOR
The Treasury Department and the U.S. Customs Service today announced the issuance of an advisory intended to combat forced and indentured child labor. The advisory is intended to help importers, manufacturers, retailers, and other businesses involved in importing merchandise identify goods that may be produced with forced or indentured child labor.
The Advisory, developed in cooperation with the Advisory Committee on International Child Labor Enforcement, will help promote voluntary compliance with child labor laws. The committee is comprised of industry representatives and distinguished child labor experts from the human rights and worker rights communities.
Abusive child labor is one of the most serious worker and human rights issues facing the world trading community. Child labor is endemic in many parts of the developing world; there are approximately 250 million child workers worldwide. Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits importing into the United States merchandise produced in whole or in part with prison, forced, or indentured labor under penal sanction, including forced or indentured child labor. The United States Customs Service is responsible for enforcing this prohibition.
The Advisory describes the types of working conditions that may signal the presence of forced or indentured child labor. It presents two sets of indicators, "red flags" and "yellow flags," that importers and others can use in seeking to determine whether specific merchandise is likely to be prohibited from importation on the grounds that it was produced with forced or indentured child labor. The indicators track the kind of evidence that the U.S. Customs Service considers in determining whether merchandise should be excluded.
- "Red flags" are factors that alone, or with other available information, strongly imply that a supplier in a foreign country may be using forced or indentured child labor, or sourcing from a facility that does so. Red flags include slave labor conditions; employment to discharge a debt or debt bond; financial penalties for absenteeism, production errors, refusal to work overtime, or minor infractions, where such penalties eliminate wages or credits already earned or create indebtedness that must be discharged; physical or sexual abuse of child workers at the workplace; and employment of very young children.
- "Yellow flags" are working conditions or business practices that, while not necessarily constituting direct evidence of forced or indentured child labor, should create suspicion on the part of importers that unfair or illegal labor practices, possibly including employment of forced or indentured child workers, might be involved, and warrant further serious inquiry and investigation. Yellow flags include work performed during unusual hours, such as early morning or late at night, or when a child could be expected to be in school; poor and unhealthy working environment; violations of local laws and regulations; employment in hazardous industries or under extreme conditions; missing or altered employment records; and workers missing from operating workstations during on-site visits. While the Advisory is not exhaustive, it represents U.S. Customs best effort to provide useful advice to businesses on how to identify goods that may have been made with forced or indentured child labor.
DETAILS OF DEPARTMENT OF STATE ANTI-SWEATSHOP GRANTS
Fair Labor Association - $750, 000
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a coalition of apparel and footwear companies and human rights, labor rights and consumer advocates that represents an innovative strategy to address violations of internationally recognized labor rights in the apparel and footwear industries. The FLA works with member companies to develop their own internal monitoring plans, which in turn are reinforced and verified by a rigorous system of external monitoring. The Anti-Sweatshop funds will be instrumental in enabling FLA to recruit, accredit, and maintain a diverse roster of external monitors around the world.
International Labor Organization – $496,974
The International Labor Organization (ILO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that works to improve labor conditions worldwide. Business and labor representatives, as well as governments, participate in its work. The ILO's responsibilities include the adoption, promotion and supervised application of formal international labor standards.
Using federal Anti-Sweatshop funds, the ILO will carry out a research project involving several multinational enterprises at the corporate level and their suppliers in developing countries. The research will examine what types of management systems are used by multinational companies to assure compliance with their company's labor standards (and throughout the company's supply chain) and what is being done to correct labor conditions that are found to be unsatisfactory.
International Labor Rights Fund - $152,880
The International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) is a non-profit action and advocacy organization which uses innovative means to encourage enforcement of international labor rights. The ILRF's activities include research, publications, legal advocacy, and consumer campaigns. ILRF achieves its policy objectives through participation in NGOs and community based coalitions or advocacy groups.
Sexual harassment is increasingly viewed as a form of violence against women in the workplace. Using federal Anti-Sweatshop funds, the ILRF with the help of its local partners will undertake a two-year project to promote increased awareness of and viable remedies for the problem of sexual harassment.
Social Accountability International - $1,000,000
Social Accountability International (formerly the Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency) is a U.S.-based non-profit organization dedicated to the development, implementation and oversight of voluntary social accountability standards. The Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000) standard promotes human rights in the workplace and is based on internationally accepted United Nations and International Labor Organization conventions.
SAI will use federal Anti-Sweatshop funds for public education and consultative projects related to the use of the SA8000 standard, research on and testing of social auditing techniques for ensuring compliance with SA8000, capacity building for trade unions, NGOs, and small- and medium-sized enterprises to participate in audits and institutional development and the promotion of multi-sector collaboration in social auditing.
American Center for International Labor Solidarity - $962,801
The American Center for International Labor Solidarity (Solidarity Center) conducts programs abroad dedicated to the promotion of and adherence to international labor rights and standards. Working through trade unions and other indigenous organizations, the Solidarity Center's programs help facilitate dialogue among business, labor and government leaders to address workplace conditions and the development and improvement of legal frameworks, institutions and practices for the enforcement of internationally recognized worker rights. Using federal Anti-Sweatshop funds, the Solidarity Center will implement projects in both Central American and the Philippines.
The Central American project, utilizing educational programs and union capacity building pilot projects, will work to improve the rule of law through technical assistance programs provided to workers, government official and academics. The Philippines project will provide the unions and NGOs with tools to make codes of conduct more effective through the construction of verification systems. This project will also enable unions to deepen their engagement with International Financial Institutions (IFI) in order to ensure that IFI programs produce jobs where workers labor in conditions of dignity.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) - $600,000
Programs administered through the "Civil Society Strengthening Program" in the USAID's Global Bureau Center for Democracy and Governance are designed to advance democratic processes worldwide including the promotion of worker rights and the elimination of sweatshop labor.
Federal Anti-Sweatshop funds will be used to support a cooperative agreement that will provide small grants of between $25,000 and $150,000 to support promising efforts in the field aimed at eliminating abusive labor conditions in factories overseas producing goods for the U.S. market. These Anti-Sweatshop efforts will complement and support other initiatives developed by indigenous NGOs, trade unions, private and public sector enterprises and governments.