Category Archives: Advocate

The Human Thread urges the World Bank to act in Uzbekistan

July 07, 2016

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Advocate

Uzbekistan child labor

Photo by Thomas Grabka

The Human Thread has endorsed a letter from the Cotton Campaign that urges the World Bank to take vital steps to end the forced labor in the Uzbek cotton industry. A coalition comprised of human rights organizations, trade unions, socially responsible investors and business associations, the Cotton Campaign works to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. Last year, Uzbekistan earned $835.4 million in cotton exports, eleventh among countries world-wide. A detailed report, “The Cover-Up: Whitewashing Uzbekistan’s White Gold,” documents systemic abuses in the supply chain from that same year.

Clearly, additional steps must be taken by those with leverage to bring about change. Therefore, The Human Thread joins with the Cotton Campaign in calling upon the World Bank to take six steps for action in Uzbekistan:

The World Bank Group is providing more than $500 million in financing to the government of Uzbekistan for its agriculture sector and additional financing to multinational companies processing forced-labor cotton in Uzbekistan.

  1. Suspend disbursements until the Uzbek government demonstrates meaningful progress reforming the root causes of forced labor, its financial system that incentivizes officials to use coercion and repression of citizens who report violations

  2. Engage and work with the Uzbek government to develop and implement a time-bound plan to reform root causes of forced labor in the agriculture sector, including the steps recommended to the government here

  3. Ensure robust and fully independent third-party monitoring of compliance with core labor conventions in the project areas

  4. Establish a confidential and accessible grievance mechanism and provide effective remedies, including legal and financial, to any person who is subjected to forced labor in the project areas

  5. Take all necessary measures to prevent reprisals against community members, journalists, and independent organizations for monitoring or reporting on human rights violations in these areas, for engaging with the Bank’s project monitors, or for filing complaints, including by seeking an enforceable commitment from the government that it will not interfere with independent reporting and engagement

  6. Raise concerns about the safety and access of independent monitors publicly and at the highest levels and make clear that their ability to work unimpeded is a vital sign of the government’s good faith and requirement for World Bank financing

THT comments on proposed human trafficking regulation

July 07, 2016

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Advocate

U.S. Capitol at Dusk

U.S. Capitol at Dusk

As the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, the U.S. government has a unique responsibility to ensure that American tax dollars do not contribute to human trafficking in our Federal supply chains. As part of the government’s ongoing work to meet this responsibility, on May 11, 2016, the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and NASA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) by providing a definition of “recruitment fees” that Federal contractors are prohibited from charging workers under Executive Order 13627, “Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Persons in Federal Contracts.” The Human Thread received encouragement to review the proposed rule and to provide written comments through the formal process.

A little history: the FAR policy on combating trafficking in persons was modified in 2015 to prohibit Federal contractors from charging employees recruitment fees, consistent with Executive Order 13627. Shortly after the 2015 final FAR rule was published, the FAR Council recognized a need for further rulemaking to clarify the meaning of “recruitment fees” in the FAR policy so that the existing prohibition is applied in a consistent manner.

We submitted our input in the hopes of improving the definitions for a clear and effective rule that will further the important goal of eliminating human trafficking in Federal supply chains. We consider our participation in this rulemaking to be an important effort to protect vulnerable persons.

In consultation with others with significant background, we submitted a comment for the NPRM that can be found here:

Our comment reads:

The agencies’ efforts to clarify the FAR’s prohibition on contractors charging employees recruitment fees is welcome. Moreover, we commend the agencies on their proposed inclusion of an illustrative list of charges and costs that qualify as “recruitment fees.” However, further delineation and clarification is needed to ensure that the definition set forth in the FAR encompasses the full scope of problematic costs and charges.

Training Costs

The proposed definition of “recruitment fees” includes costs related to “training.” We strongly support inclusion of training-related fees, but we are concerned with the ambiguity of this term. We urge the agencies to specify that “training” covers more than just required courses or certifications needed by employees or potential employees for work in a particular industry such as teaching or nursing. In addition, “training” should include courses recruiters lead victims to believe they need in order to qualify for a position, even if the training is not actually mandatory for employment. Such courses can include English-language programs, driving lessons, and behavioral and cultural workshops (separate from cultural orientation programs).

This deplorable activity is evidenced by first-hand accounts of survivors of labor trafficking. Victims describe traffickers luring them into paying for expensive seminars and courses that they fraudulently stated were required for teaching positions in the United States. This type of scheme led to a number of individuals being forced into severe debt-bondage situations.

Insurance Fees

We urge the agencies to include “insurance” costs in the illustrative list of recruitment fees. In order to clarify the scope of this item, we suggest that it be listed as: “all insurance fees, including, but not limited to, health, medical, and dental insurance.”

Transportation & Subsistence Costs

We further support inclusion of “transportation and subsistence costs from the airport or disembarkation point to the worksite.” We urge the agencies to expand this item to include transportation or travel from the airport or port of entry to housing accommodations as well as the worksite.

Holding Corporations Accountable for a Living Wage in the Garment Industry

July 07, 2016

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Advocate

Benny Kuruvilla of Newsclick spoke with trade unionist Anannya Bhattacharjee after the recent International Labor Organization conference. Bhattcharjee explains the campaign of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance that aims to hold global corporations accountable for the payment of a living wage in the garment industry.

Listen to this interview for a perspective from workers in Asia. We at The Human thread aim to act in solidarity with the just demands of workers represented by Bhattacharjee.