Since 2001, the U.S. Department of Labor has been required by law to disclose the names of industries in various countries that use child labor or slave labor in the production of goods you might buy here in the United States. On September 27 2012, the Department of Labor’s latest disclosure includes a determination based on multiple sources that clothing produced in Vietnam is being made by child slaves.
The U.S. Department of Labor is required to disclose this fact, but it isn’t required to publicize it. So it is to the Department’s credit that it has linked to this information from its front page, even creating an eye-grabbing graphic link to the report.
Sadly, American news media have largely ignored this report. The Huffington Post noted the report in coverage of a presidential debate on October 23. The trade newsletter Just Style wrote on October 11 that in reaction to the report, the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition had called for the exclusion of Vietnam from any upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Textile World, another trade publication, noted the same development. Other than that, there has been no report in the professional news media on the DOL finding regarding child slaves in Vietnam.
Let’s rectify that lapse. The following is a list of sources provided by the Department of Labor to the public, documenting the existence of child labor and slavery problems in the Vietnamese apparel industry over a number of years:
Australia’s Herald Sun: Children rescued from slave labour in Vietnam factory
Human Rights Watch: The Rehab Archipelago
Vietnews: Growing Pain of Child Labor in Vietnam
Tuoi Tre Newspaper: “Child Labor Exploitation” five part series
U.S. Department of State: Vietnam Country Report on Human Rights Practices
Private U.S. Embassy reporting from Hanoi. reporting, January 2011 to 2012
United Nations Viet Nam, IOM, and MDG Achievement Fund. Exploratory Research – Trafficking in Boys in Viet Nam
To the Department of Labor’s list, I’d add Agence France Presse’s report of September 2011. There’s repeated documentation of the Vietnamese child slavery problem. The only question is, will Americans continue to participate in the child slave trade? Despite the stain, will we continue to buy cheap Vietnamese clothes?