FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 10, 2009
Contact: Brian Campbell, brian.campbell[at]ilrf.org, +1-202-347-4100 x102
Leslie Getzinger, lgetzing[at]aft.org, +1-202-585-4373
Melinda Lovins, Melinda.Lovins[at]calvert.com, +1-301-657-7089
Advocates and Shareholders Express Concern about Ongoing Forced Labor of Children in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Industry
Today the US Department of Labor (DOL) released a list of goods believed to be produced using forced or child labor as part of a mandate from the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005. Cotton from Uzbekistan was one of the goods included on the list of products linked to both child and forced labor.
Of particular concern to many human rights advocates and purchasers of cotton is the widespread use of abusive child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector. For years, the ruling regime of Uzbekistan has removed thousands of children from schools across the country and forced them to pick cotton during the harvest season. A complaint filed by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) against Uzbekistan under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is currently under review by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).
In the last year, a diverse coalition of businesses, trade unions, non-government organizations and socially responsible investors have joined together in calling for an end to forced child labor in Uzbekistan. The international community has called on the Government of Uzbekistan to: 1) End the forced labor of children in the cotton fields; 2) Enact agricultural reforms that would exclude the demand for child labor and provide sufficient incentives for the adult population to work in the cottons fields; and 3) Invite an ILO assessment mission, which has full freedom of movement and timely access to workers and civil society actors, to advise on the implementation of the recently-ratified ILO Conventions on child labor.
Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President of Sustainability Research and Policy at the Calvert Group, Ltd. said, “As investors we are very concerned that our portfolios are free from products made with forced child labor, and have long been aware of the problems in Uzbek cotton. We are working with a number of brands and retailers who are already taking steps to ensure they are not doing business with cotton producers who exploit children. We welcome the Department of Labor's list as an important tool to help us screen against these tainted investments.”
Patricia Keefer of the International Affairs Department at the American Federation of Teachers said, “The continuing forced labor of children in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields is of major concern to unions and teachers around the world. School is the best place to work for children and teachers. We hope that the inclusion of Uzbek cotton on the Department of Labor’s list will help focus international attention on ending these abuses.”
Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum said, “The Department of Labor listing of Uzbek cotton should send a signal to textile and clothing producers everywhere of the need to ensure their product is not made with forced child labor. We hope the listing will inspire greater transparency and accountability in the global cotton-to-garment supply chain.”
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is an affiliated international union of the AFL-CIO representing more than 1.4 million members. For more information, please visit www.AFT.org.
Calvert Investments is a leader in Sustainable and Responsible Investments (SRI), Calvert Investments offers investors among the widest choice of SRI strategies of any investment management company in the United States. Each SRI strategy employs one of three proprietary approaches. Calvert Signature™ Strategies integrate two distinct research frameworks: a rigorous review of financial performance plus a thorough assessment of environmental, social and governance performance. Only when a company meets Calvert standards for both frameworks will we consider investing. Calvert Solution™ Strategies selectively invest in companies that produce products and services designed to solve some of today's most pressing sustainability challenges. Calvert SAGE™ Strategies emphasize strategic engagement to advance environmental, social and governance performance in companies that may not meet Calvert standards today, but have the potential to improve. More information on Calvert SRI strategies is available at www.Calvert.com/SRI.
The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. For more information, please visit www.LaborRights.org.