Nike and Coca-Cola are among the major companies and business groups lobbying Congress to weaken a bill that would ban imported goods made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, according to congressional staff members and other people familiar with the matter, as well as lobbying records that show vast spending on the legislation.
The bill, which would prohibit broad categories of certain goods made by persecuted Muslim minorities in an effort to crack down on human rights abuses, has gained bipartisan support, passing the House in September by a margin of 406 to 3. Congressional aides say it has the backing to pass the Senate, and could be signed into law by either the Trump administration or the incoming Biden administration.
But the legislation, called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, has become the target of multinational companies including Apple whose supply chains touch the far western Xinjiang region, as well as of business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Lobbyists have fought to water down some of its provisions, arguing that while they strongly condemn forced labor and current atrocities in Xinjiang, the act’s ambitious requirements could wreak havoc on supply chains that are deeply embedded in China.
Xinjiang produces vast amounts of raw materials like cotton, coal, sugar, tomatoes and polysilicon, and supplies workers for China’s apparel and footwear factories. Human rights groups and news reports have linked many multinational companies to suppliers there, including tying Coca-Cola to sugar sourced from Xinjiang, and documenting Uighur workers in a factory in Qingdao that makes Nike shoes.
The preferred position of workers in a capitalist society is slavery, especially when those workers aren’t consumers. Behind prison walls in distant China? Perfect!
Meanwhile, if you want to be disgusted, check out this thread:
First: Clarence Thomas (!) asks Katyal, isn’t there an international norm allowing corporate liability for slavery?
Katyal says: Well, this is just *aiding and abetting* slavery, so it’s different. pic.twitter.com/Tf72y4TKU7
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) December 1, 2020
If only I could become a well-known lawyer and then use my skills to defend the most heinous labor practices in the world.
As a reminder, it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve articulated real alternatives around a Corporate Accountability Act and use of the courts to interpret existing law in ways to fight against corporate greed and the exploitation of people around the world. Take this stuff seriously, make it central to your politics, and then maybe something can get done about it.