WASHINGTON—Agricultural imports produced with child labor should have no place in American commerce, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Antonia Cortese told a U.S. Department of Agriculture panel this week.
The United States needs “a monitoring system that will provide American consumers with assurance that they are not unwittingly supporting the exploitation of children when they go grocery shopping or through other everyday purchases,” Cortese said during her March 29 appearance before the USDA Consultative Group to Eliminate the Use of Child Labor and Forced Labor in Imported Agricultural Products.
The Consultative Group was established under the current Farm Bill to develop measures aimed at eliminating child labor from the production and distribution chain that supplies the U.S. agricultural import market. According to the World Bank, 70 percent of all child laborers around the world work in agriculture.
Cortese urged the panel to support establishing a voluntary, independent monitoring and verification system to ensure that consumers have the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions.
“Once consumers have ready access to reliable information about the use of child labor, most of them will avoid products brought to market with such practices,” she told the panel.
In noting the AFT’s long record of active opposition to child labor, Cortese also referred to the recent letter from AFT President Randi Weingarten to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to close the U.S. market to chocolate made with cocoa that is produced with child labor. The AFT was the only union represented at the Consultative Group meeting.