Cotton Coercion - Child Labour is the Tip of the Iceberg in Uzbekistan - Labour is Not a Commodity

By Elizabeth Dia, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum

Uzbekistan, a country now infamous for its use of forced child labor, also coerces adults to labor alongside the children. If the “tip of the forced labor iceberg” is an estimated 1.5 to 2 million children taking part in the cotton harvest, then adult forced laborers are the victims hidden under the surface. The Uzbek government, through local officials, requires all citizens to help pick cotton by creating quotas for farmers to meet. To ensure these quotas are met the government uses forced labor, as defined by International Labor Organization, or “…work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.” The penalties against those who refuse to pick cotton include: beatings, a loss of pension/maternity payments, a loss of utilities such as electricity, and threats of unemployment.

Tell the World Health Organization to Call Action to Labor Rights Abuses in Tobacco

by Mitch Ellmauer, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum

Tobacco executives aren’t known for being the most ethical businessmen. They sell millions of cancer- 114 causing products every day, they market cigarettes to children, and they lie about the tobacco’s negative health effects. Considering how bad Big Tobacco treats its customers, it should come as no surprise that tobacco companies subject their workers and farmers to extremely exploitative labor practices, including: child labor, forced labor, debt bondage, human trafficking, and wage theft.

Like it or not, tobacco is one of the most profitable industries in the world. Over 100 million workers are employed in the industry, and tobacco is a major cash crop in 100 countries. The poorest of these countries have become dependent on tobacco exports and the victims of tobacco companies’ unfair trade policies.

Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries, depends on tobacco for 70% of its yearly export revenues. Rampant poverty, widespread unemployment, and deep inequities in land distribution have driven down wages and working conditions for the county’s tobacco farmers and farmworkers. Malawi has the highest incidence of child labor in southern Africa; 66% of working children are employed on tobacco farms.

The Sweet Delicious Taste of, Child Labor?

Allison Richina, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum Source:

International Labor Rights Forum

Imagine that favorite piece of chocolate entering your mouth as you bite into its rich flavor. The very thought of chocolate brings pleasure and excitement to our taste buds. Where do you get your chocolate from? Maybe a drug store, grocery store, or a chocolate store? Have you thought about where those stores and brands get their chocolate?

The shocking truth is that an estimate of 109,000 children are working in abusive conditions with as many as 10,000 suffering as victims of human trafficking or enslavement (according to the U.S. Department of State), and these may be conservative estimates. In 2005, the International Labor Organization estimated that as many as 200,000 children work in West Africa cocoa farms.

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