Michael Billet, senior manager of policy research, Employment Policy Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, kicked off the Eliminating Forced Labor event on July 30, 2020, to commemorate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
In his opening remarks, Glenn Spencer, senior vice president of the Employment Policy Division at the U.S. Chamber, stressed that businesses have an important role to play in detecting and remedying forced labor in supply chains. He said legislation that imposes reporting requirements for supply chain due diligence, such as the U.K. Modern Slavery Act. is of concern. This is because a one-size-fits all approach may hinder voluntary efforts by the private sector to take the lead against human trafficking.
Stefan J. Marculewicz, shareholder and co-chair, Business and Human Rights Practice Group, Littler Mendelson P.C., is chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Task Force to Eradicate Human Trafficking. The task force is an advisory group consisting of members who work with the federal government and the private sector to develop commonsense solutions and speak with one voice. He introduced Robert A. Destro, assistant secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State.
In his keynote, Destro spoke about the Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory issued by the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Commerce, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He emphasized that employers may face penalties for a failure to conduct due diligence of their supply chains in Xinjiang province, China.
Gabriella Rigg Herzog, vice president of corporate responsibility and labor affairs at the United States Council for International Business, then led a discussion of federal government agency officials from DHS, Office of the United States Trade Representative, and U.S. Department of Labor, regarding implementation of the USMCA’s Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force.
James W. McCament, deputy under secretary, Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, DHS, stated that in active investigations, there is tension between upholding a commitment to transparency and withholding information from impacted parties. He noted that having legal standards applied consistently is paramount for the business community. DHS is exercising its discretion in combating forced labor through, among other things, the use of withhold release orders.
Josh Kagan, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for labor at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), said that if businesses raise concerns in countries where the U.S. has free trade or trade preference agreements, USTR will engage with other countries’ trade ministries to address the problem of forced labor systematically.
Marcia Eugenio, director, Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs at the U.S, Department of Labor, stated, “The Bureau of International Labor Affairs is a knowledge generator and not an enforcement agency. Other agencies rely on the information we provide to help them prevent goods made from child or forced labor from entering into the U.S. market.”
Jim Isajewicz. analyst manager, Thomson Reuters Special Services (TRSS), delivered a keynote, titled “Commercially Available Solutions for Disrupting Forced Labor Value Chains,” where he discussed how the private sector is leading the charge against human trafficking. TRSS uses intelligence mapping to identify owners of illicit massage businesses, locate domestic agricultural farm workers who are held in debt bondage, and detect suppliers in Xinjiang province, China, that engage in human rights abuses.
In closing, Isajewicz issued a call for action for private companies to take the following steps outlined below to end modern slavery:
· Know your customers.
· Know your suppliers and their suppliers too.
· Look past the obvious.
· Invest in tools and services to pull in disparate data to develop a comprehensive understanding of your entire supply chain.
· Don’t settle for minimum compliance.
Sinead Bovell, founder and CEO at the Weekly Advice for the Young Entrepreneur (WAYE), leads WAYE Talks, a conversation with industry experts to learn how technology impacts business decisions. She interviewed James Wiley, chief operating officer, Counter Human Trafficking Compliance Solutions (CHTCS), to conclude the event.
CHTCS global risk assessment technology uses self-reporting questionnaires, coupled with data analytics and artificial intelligence to detect forced labor patterns, and displays this information visually through a heat map that is updated in real time.
Through its proprietary technology, CTCHS can predict population displacements and migratory patterns of vulnerable workers. According to Wiley, CHTCS forecasted the coffee crisis in the Northern Highland mountains in Guatemala and Honduras, and, in turn, the migratory routes of these farm workers to other regions of Central America and Mexico, where those farm owners were warned about the increased risks of forced labor.