June 11, 2009
AFT Media Affairs
Statement by Antonia Cortese,
Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers,
Calling for Uzbekistan To End Forced Student and Teacher Labor
The American Federation of Teachers is co-hosting a discussion during the International Labour Conference in Geneva on forced labor in Central Asia, with particular focus on Uzbekistan's practice of coercing students and teachers to harvest cotton.
WASHINGTON—One of the most egregious examples of forced labor is in Uzbekistan, where the government coerces millions of students to leave their families, live and work in squalid, dangerous conditions, and harvest cotton for months at a time. Teachers often are required to oversee this activity. It is unconscionable for the Uzbek government to deny children what they need the most to break the cycle of poverty-an education. The situation is especially outrageous since Uzbekistan recently signed the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182 demanding the elimination of the worst forms of child labor.
The American Federation of Teachers is calling on the Uzbek government to immediately cease the practice of forcing students and teachers to work in the cotton fields rather than be in school, and to give ILO monitors free and open access to all Uzbek cotton fields during the upcoming cotton harvest.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.