The lack of watchdogging product supply chains for human trafficking has long been a bane to anti-traffickers. Even if the shirt you just bought wasn’t sewn in a sweatshop, slaves still could have picked the cotton that it was made from. (Why does that sound so familiar, U.S. History? Will we never learn?) With no one regulating the supply chain, it’s virtually impossible to ensure any item is completely slave-free.
Most people are content to let businesses regulate themselves, i.e. they turn a blind eye. The particularly ardent shopper might go so far as to buy only from small, relationship-based companies who oversee their product from conception to retail. But, let’s face it, big business isn’t known for its ethics and I seriously doubt you and I can completely avoid big business. That’s why it’s called “big.” It’s everywhere.
As of January 29th, California has officially had enough. Big business beware. Traffickers, take note. The State Senate passed SB 657. Among other things, the bill requires any retailer or manufacturer operating in the state to comply with federal and state laws regarding trafficking and to seek the eradication of slavery from its supply chain. Companies have to come up with policies reflecting this compliance, actually carry out the policies, and make them available to consumers upon request.
According to the Senate’s bill analysis, the policy companies enact has to require the company and all its suppliers to follow anti-trafficking laws in their respective countries and if they encounter slavery in the supply chain, they will “seek eradication rather than ceasing business in that area.”
The eradication bit is key because it means that businesses that want to operate in California actually have to do something about slavery when they find it. They can’t just sweep it under the rug and run. And this is what will make all the difference. Once other countries realize the deep pockets of the U.S. are no longer open to slave labor, they’ll have to change problems in their operations or become obsolete.
The bill, sponsored by Senate Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, was co-sponsored by CAST and the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, both of whom contributed information that made the bill possible. With California being the 10th largest economy in the world, CAST sees this as a direct blow to traffickers everywhere. Not to mention that the state is also home to Hollywood, and a proven trendsetter in everything from fashion and entertainment to politics and humanitarian efforts. This could be big, people, maybe even bigger than big business.
The bill needs to get through the State Assembly next, however, so if you’re a California resident who wants to see this bill become law, please e-mail your assembly representative today. Tell traffickers to get out of our supply chain or end up in some chains of their own.