Maloney Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Fight Human Trafficking

Aug 3, 2011 Issues: Runaway Children, Women's Issues
Press Contact: 
Joe Soldevere (212) 860-0606

New York, NY – Today at City Hall, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) announced the introduction of H.R. 2759, the Business Transparency on Trafficking & Slavery Act, which would require companies to disclose any measures taken to identify and address instances of human trafficking, slavery, and child labor in their supply chains.  The legislation would require companies to include such disclosures in their annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and would also be prominently posted on SEC and company websites for public access.  The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Jim McGovern (D-MA).  A summary of Maloney’s legislation follows.

Joining Maloney at City Hall were New York City Council Members Dan Garodnick, Rosie Mendez, and Margaret Chin; Cheryl Queen, Vice President of Compass Group, a food-services firm -the 11th-largest private employer in the world- which has taken a leadership role in fighting slave labor in its supply chain; Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT USA; and Ariel Zwang, CEO of the anti-trafficking organization Safe Horizon.

“Human trafficking is the slavery of the 21st century.  It is estimated that nearly 12.3 million people are working in some form of forced labor worldwide.  We have seen a global shift in trafficking in weapons and drugs to trafficking in children and humans.  Drugs and guns can be used only once, but the human body can be used over and over again.  We must use every tool available to help men, women, and children around the world who are enslaved,” said Maloney.

“American consumers make purchasing decisions every day, but very few Americans know that it’s virtually impossible to get dressed, drive to work, talk on the phone, or eat a meal without touching products tainted by forced labor.  This bill serves as a step toward ending this devastating enslavement by requiring companies with more than $100 million in worldwide receipts to be transparent about their policies.  We don’t tell companies what to do, we’re just asking them to tell us what they do.  But in providing this transparency, we’re also empowering consumers with information that could impact their purchasing decisions,” Maloney added.

“The United States is the world’s largest importer and has both the ability and responsibility to ensure that U.S. markets are not fueling human trafficking,” said Rep. Smith, author of the landmark Trafficking Victim Protection Act and co-chair of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus with Rep. Maloney. “The transparency required by this bill will bring those who are slaving in darkness into the light, enabling us all to respond appropriately.”

“It’s time we stop thinking about trafficking—whether it’s labor trafficking, or sex trafficking, of adults or children—as someone else’s problem. This happens right here in New York and it happens to our children and it is unacceptable.  I am proud to stand with Congresswoman Maloney and affirm our commitment to stamping out human trafficking in our city.  I urge her colleagues in Congress to pass and fully fund HR 2759,” said Speaker Quinn.

"The sad reality is that sexual exploitation and other forms of trafficking happen every day -and they happen right here in New York City.  We as consumers and taxpayers should know that our money is not filling the corporate wallet by means of heinous activities like human trafficking, slavery, and child labor. One way we can be responsible consumers is by knowing that a company has in place policies that address this issue, ensuring that the supply chain is not marred by any form of trafficking," stated New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras, Chair of the Council’s Women's Issues Committee.

"The conditions endured by child workers and victims of human trafficking shock the conscience," said Council Member Garodnick.  "American consumers should know what steps the largest corporations are taking to prevent child labor and forced labor in their supply chains so that we are not unwittingly supporting these horrific activities.  By bringing more attention to this issue, Congresswoman Maloney's bill could help make a life-changing impact."

Council Member Mendez said:  “The American people want to know that the products they are buying and the companies they support are not exploiting children or other vulnerable people.  I salute Congresswoman Maloney for introducing a bill to increase our access to information about what major companies are doing to stop these objectionable practices within their supply chains.”

Council Member Chin said: "This is an important step toward raising awareness about the global implications of our consumer culture in the U.S. It is all about being a responsible buyer and supporting businesses that uphold fair and honest labor practices throughout their supply chain. Human trafficking, slavery and child labor are the dark side of doing business in our country and it needs to be exposed."

Mark Lagon, Former Ambassador-at-Large of the federal Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said about the bill:  "Not remotely onerous regulation, this bill simply asks big companies to let citizens and consumers know what steps they're taking to check if their supply chains are free of horrifying slavery."

“We are gratified to be a catalyst in moving the Florida tomato industry to adopt the Fair Food Code of Conduct, which is a necessary first step in eliminating slavery once and for all from this country’s produce supply chain,” said Cheryl Queen of the Compass Group.  “Working through the intricacies of the supply chain can be complicated, challenging, and often times frustrating, but it can be done.  For those organizations with a commitment to ethical behavior and good corporate citizenship, a commitment to this sort of transparency is critical.”

“Once this legislation is passed, international companies will have to tell the world what they are doing to ensure that their labor practices are fair and free of human trafficking.  With this bill, companies can’t look the other way, and should take positive steps to assure consumers and workers alike that they have made sure that everyone in their employ is treated fairly.  We thank Rep. Maloney and her colleagues for their continued leadership in this area, and Safe Horizon pledges to vigorously support this effort in the coming months,” said Ariel Zwang of Safe Horizon.

###

HR 2759, the Business Transparency on Trafficking & Slavery Act
Prepared by the Office of Representative Carolyn B. Maloney

Bill Summary

Requires companies to disclose any measures taken to identify and address instances of human trafficking, slavery and child labor in their supply chains in their annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  The disclosures would also be prominently posted on SEC and company websites for public access.

Definitions of “Forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor”:
•    “Forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor” means child labor in violation of international standards including International Labor Organization Convention No. 182 and acts that would violate the criminal provisions related to slavery and human trafficking under chapter 77 or title 18 if they had been committed within the jurisdiction of the United States.

Benefits for the Public:
•    Access to disclosure information on SEC and company websites will help consumers make responsible purchasing decisions.
•    Companies are accountable to the public for their business practices.
•    Creates market competition to improve how businesses identify and address instances slavery and human trafficking within supply chains.

Transparency by Companies:
•    Disclosure requires outlining practices employed to avoid use of slavery in supply chain in annual report to SEC.
•    Maintains internal accountability standards, supply chain management and procurement systems, and procedures for employees or contractors failing to meet the company standards regarding forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor.
•    Does not dictate how companies do business.

HR 2759 Makes the Following Key Findings:
1.  In 2010, the Department of Labor identified 128 goods from 70 countries around the world made by forced labor and child labor.
2.  The United States is the world’s largest importer, and in the twenty-first century, investors, consumers, and broader civil society increasingly demand information about the human rights impact of products in the in the United States market.
3.  In 2010, California enacted the first State law requiring manufacturers and retail companies to publicly disclose their policies to eradicate slavery, forced labor, and human trafficking within their supply chains.
4.  The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits importation of goods made with forced labor or convict labor, has a broad exception for goods that cannot be produced in the United States in sufficient quantities to meet the demands of American consumers.