“In the 14 years the United States has produced the Trafficking in Persons Report, the world has made tremendous progress in the fight against human trafficking. There is no government, however, that has done a perfect job responding to this crime. In the years ahead, it seems unlikely that any government will reach perfection.”
These are the opening words of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, composed by the U.S. Department of State. Perfection in ending slavery, indentured servitude, and other forms of unethical labor may never be reached, but there is a great deal of territory between perfection and where the world is now, and there’s a great deal we in the United States can do to bring widespread slavery and sweatshop conditions to an end.
At present, American law actually encourages slavery and other kinds of forced labor in other countries. The Tariff Act of 1930 forbids the importation of goods that are produced using prison labor, slave labor, or indentured labor. However, the Tariff Act of 1930 also contains a huge loophole: The prohibition on the importation of items made by slaves, prisoners, and exploited workers doesn’t count when importers claim that there is a strong market demand for their products in the United States (consumptive demand). So, stores in the USA sell huge numbers of things made by slaves, prisoners and people trapped in servitude simply because people are willing to buy them – though they may not know how those items were made.
This week, U.S. Representative Ron Kind introduced legislation, H.R. 5247, that would close the consumptive demand loophole. If H.R. 5247 is signed into law, imports of items made by slaves, prisoners and indentured workers would be absolutely banned, without exception.
This isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a partisan issue. Please contact your U.S. representative and request support for H.R. 5247.