Worker Rights Consortium— a member of Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region — Calls Congressional Action “A High-Decibel Wake Up Call for Apparel Brands Complicit in Forced Labor”
Washington, DC – In an action with sweeping implications for global apparel brands, the US House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (H.R. 6210). The bill is designed to end the use of Uyghur forced labor in corporate supply chains by banning all imports with content from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (otherwise known as the Uyghur Region) — unless the brand importing the product can prove it was not made with forced labor.
The Chinese government has thrown over 1 million Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples into internment camps in the Uyghur Region, and established a large-scale regime of forced labor as a means of domination and social control. Virtually every leading apparel brand is implicated, because all use cotton from the region to make their clothes. One-in-five cotton garments sold in the US has content from the Uyghur Region.
“The US House of Representatives has sounded a high-decibel wake-up call for apparel brands and other corporations that are complicit in human rights violations in the Uyghur Region,” said Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium. “The message could not be clearer: if brands and retailers refuse to stop sourcing goods made with forced labor, the US government will make them stop.”
Congressional action on the issue of Uyghur forced labor has become necessary because apparel brands and retailers’ have continued to source cotton and other goods from the Uyghur Region — despite the well-documented presence of forced labor, from cotton farms to yarn spinning mills. While action in the US Senate is still pending, “apparel brands should now be able to see the writing on the wall,” said Nova. “Continuing to source from the Uyghur Region is no longer a viable option.”
On July 23, 2020, the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region issued a call to action seeking brands to commit to cutting all ties with suppliers implicated in forced labor and end all sourcing from the Uyghur Region, from cotton to finished garments. The call to action is endorsed by over 280 civil society groups, trade unions, Uyghur groups, and investor organizations from 35+ countries.
In another blow to apparel brands with designs to stay in the Uyghur Region, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that many major auditing firms have agreed to cease labor compliance audits in the region, recognizing that the only purpose such audits serve in such a repressive environment is to give a false impression of due diligence.
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