A recent U.S. government report confirms Vietnamese children are being forced to work in garment factories against their will. The government discovered child slavery when two Department of Labor officials visited Vietnam in January to investigate labor practices. As part of their visit, they met with Vietnamese government officials, unions and international and non-governmental groups working on child protection and worker rights issues. They found Vietnam has laws on the books, but they are not stopping child slavery:
Enacting laws, meaningfully enforcing those laws, and establishing policies and programs are important components of any country’s efforts to combat forced child labor. However, based on the evidence reviewed, there are more than isolated cases of forced child labor in garment production.
The findings back up a report by the Workers Rights Consortium that outlined repeated instances of child slavery. The document also detailed the squalid working conditions and low wages tolerated in Vietnam.Teamster President James P. Hoffa spoke out last month against allowing Vietnam to be a part of the TPP, saying the nation should clean up its act before it can be allowed to. He demanded that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman hold the Southeast Asian nation accountable for its human rights violations.
U.S. workers should not be forced to compete against child slaves in garment factories. The last thing American working families need is another trade deal that’s unfair to American workers.
As TPP negotiations get set to resume in Brunei later this week, U.S. trade representatives and lawmakers must make sure the deal is a fair one. No one doubts the value of trade, but not if it puts the American worker at a disadvantage.