The Secret World of Modern Slavery

Some jobs trap desperate workers into circumstances that are impossible to escape. At that point, the work is no longer a job but slavery. An example are the men who shovel hardwood into kilns to make charcoal for the Brazilian pig-iron industry, used for sinks, cars, refrigerators and other conveniences for wealthier consumers throughout the Americas. The US has laws against importing products made with slave labor – but few employers or governments use the word “slavery.” Instead, employers mislead vulnerable and poor people about the nature and conditions of jobs. Forced into debt by employers, the laborers cannot afford to return to their villages, often working for months without wages and living in deplorable conditions. Any hint of slave labor would destroy the reputation of major corporations based in the developing world. But pig iron produced under highly questionable circumstances makes its way into products made by Toyota, Koehler, General Motors and other major firms, according to one Stanford University analyst, “because corporations don’t ask their suppliers enough questions.” Corporations rely on governments in developing nations to monitor the supply chain and, only when alerted, do corporate officials investigate or end relationships with problem suppliers. – YaleGlobal

The Secret World of Modern Slavery

Hundreds of thousands of workers toil without pay in Latin America, producing timber, gold and the charcoal used to make steel – labor that goes into materials bought by major companies
Michael Smith
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Click here for the original article on Bloomberg's website.

© 2007 BLOOMBERG L.P. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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