Workers Carrying Baskets of Tea up a Hill

Verité was pleased to play a role in “Out of the Shadows: Innovative Approaches to Combating Forced Labor and Other Forms of Worker Exploitation,” a multi-stakeholder conference convened by the ILO Washington office, Humanity United, and the US Department of Labor on April 22nd in Washington, DC.  The conference was noteworthy for its focus on innovative public policy changes at the local, state, and national levels and how those intersect with efforts of civil society organizations and the private sector. Interestingly, the day was structured around information-sharing and dialogue among US and Brazilian stakeholders, representing two countries where there is much activity at all levels of government along with robust private sector efforts.

Verité’s Director of Programs and Research, Shawn MacDonald, moderated a panel called “Global Supply Chains, Labor Markets and Labor Recruitment” that included a particularly compelling group of panelists whose work represents some of the most promising means of changing private sector approaches to supply chains and labor recruitment. Max Tunon, leader of the ILO’s GMS Triangle Project in the Mekong region, spoke of new approaches by Southeast Asian governments to regulate labor recruitment; Rob Lederer of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) announced new major changes to their code of conduct to fight forced labor; Leonardo Sakamoto of Reporter Brasil highlighted both the history and current status of the innovative “dirty list” that exposes companies in Brazil tied to forced labor; Rachel Micah-Jones of Centro de los Derechos del Migrantes (CDM) explained a range of approaches to reforming guest worker systems and empowering workers through technology; and David Schilling of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) spoke of new directions and progress in corporate accountability and partnerships for compliance in sectors as diverse as Asian seafood and Bangladeshi garments. 

At the end of the day, MacDonald joined senior officials from the ILO in Washington and Brazil and the US Department of Labor on a concluding panel, “From Thinking to Doing – Putting Conference Ideas into Practice & Policy,” to provide reflections on lessons learned and potential follow-up from the conference.  All panelists emphasized the need to link efforts to fight forced labor with the broader fight against all forms of labor exploitation, stressing the importance of worker engagement and worker voices in all efforts related to supply chain compliance measures and labor recruitment reform. 

For more information on the conference, please visit www.workerexploitation.org.