U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced the bipartisan Slave-Free Business Certification Act to target forced labor in global supply chains and hold multinational corporations accountable. The legislation establishes new corporate supply chain disclosure requirements, mandates regular audits, puts CEOs on the hook for their company’s use of forced labor, and creates stiff penalties for firms that fail to uphold minimum standards for human rights. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is an original cosponsor.
For years, forced labor has persisted in the shadows, tainting both global supply chains and goods imported into the United States. In 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that nearly 25 million people were trapped in forced labor across 77 nations. Not only is the continued existence of forced labor a moral atrocity, but such practices deeply harm American workers and domestic producers by forcing them to compete on an uneven playing field against cheap, imported goods produced with exploitation.
“The scourge of global slave labor must end and multinational corporations complicit in this moral atrocity must be held accountable,” said Senator Hawley.“The bipartisan Slave-Free Business Certification Act takes important steps to make American supply chains slave-free, protect American workers, and end labor exploitation across the globe.”
Senator Hawley first introduced a version of this proposal in July 2020.
The Slave-Free Business Certification Act would:
- Compel large corporations to disclose the steps they are taking to eradicate forced labor from their manufacturing supply chains.
- Direct these companies to undergo rigorous independent audits on an annual basis to ensure they are not complicit in slave labor and labor trafficking, including through their suppliers.
- Require these companies to submit the results of the audits to the Department of Labor and also make these disclosures publicly available. The Department will report to Congress those companies found to be complicit in forced labor.
- Obligate CEOs to certify that their supply chains are free from slave labor or that they have reported all instances of forced labor in their company’s supply chain.
- Assess financial penalties on those companies that evade the audit requirements, retaliate against workers, or fail to certify that their supply chain is slave-free.