Today it is estimated that nearly 12.3 million people — equal to nearly one-third of California’s total population — are working in some form of forced labor worldwide.
Across the country, existing state and federal laws make human trafficking a crime, while providing various remedies and supports to victims. Yet, state and federal laws have done little to address the growing markets that consume products tainted with slavery and trafficking.
In September 2009, the US Department of Labor released its “List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor.” The report found nearly 122 goods from 58 countries that are believed to be tainted with forced and/or child labor.
Undoubtedly, many of those goods are consumed in California—home to the 10th largest economy in the world with hundreds of billions of dollars of imports pouring into the state each year. California consumers and businesses—by the nature and scope of their purchasing power—are uniquely positioned to eradicate slavery and trafficking through their purchasing choices.
Two pieces of legislation are pending California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature that will significantly help the effort to curb the demand for products made with slave labor.
The California Supply Chain Transparency Act of 2010 (SB 657) would require all large retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose the extent to which the company uses 3rd party verification to evaluate and address human trafficking and slavery risks in product supply chains, conducts independent, unannounced audits of suppliers to ensure compliance with company standards on trafficking and slavery and maintains internal accountability for employees and contractors failing to meet company standards on slavery and trafficking. With this information, consumers across the country will have better tools to help them make ethical decisions about what they purchase.
The Slave and Sweat Free Code of Conduct for goods sold to the State of California (SB 1231) would amend current the current code to expand the definition of prohibited labor, expand the penalty for noncompliance to 2 years of removal from the State's bidder list, improve the current contractor responsibility program and use the purchasing power of the state of California to reduce the demand for goods made with slave, forced or abusive forms of labor.
Whether you are a resident of California or not, these bills are important for consumers across the country, as they will serve as an example for other states, and influence the large companies doing business beyond California.