Press Release | Global Worker Rights

AFL-CIO Supports Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act

Multinational Brands Must Leave Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)

The AFL-CIO supports the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act introduced today by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The act is meant to halt horrific abuse the Chinese government has inflicted on more than 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslims and Turkic people in China’s largest province, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Since 2017, the Chinese government has run a massive program of so-called “re-education” of these people. The program uses several methods to eliminate their identity and way of life, including the largest internment program of an ethnic and religious group since the Holocaust. While interned, many are forced to work to support China’s industry, including textiles and garments. China has also broadly deployed state-of-the-art surveillance to thoroughly monitor the lives of these workers at home, in public and in their personal communications. Family separation, denial of religious freedom and forced labor are woven together in this massive assault on human rights.

“For three years, many countries, diverse political leaders, labor and human rights organizations, and companies have witnessed these egregious abuses and agreed that this massive attack on human rights is unacceptable,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “There is no debate about the gravity and scale of the abuse, but there has been no action to end it. We fully support this legislation that lays out how the United States will investigate further, raise awareness of the problem and take action consistent with our people’s values to end this trade in tainted goods and hold companies and individuals responsible for violating the human rights and attacking the way of life of these people. We are together in rejecting this affront to humanity.” 

Reports identify that many multinational companies, including major auto, aerospace, rail transportation, electronics, garment and textile manufacturers, are benefiting from the forced labor of these people in the XUAR and other provinces they are forced to work in. The sourcing is a boon not only to the companies, which knowingly profit from the low costs, but also to the Chinese government, which can use the revenue to deepen control over the Uyghur population.

Because of the climate of repression, fear and social control created by the Chinese government in the XUAR and within Uyghur communities elsewhere, human rights groups cannot conduct due diligence of supply chains. Likewise, China has not allowed the United Nations or other credible international organizations or press to monitor the situation on the ground. The only way to prevent these practices from tainting global supply chains and limit the Chinese government’s ability to profit from forced labor is for both countries and companies to require an end to the production and sourcing of goods made from inputs linked to the XUAR. This bill and other congressional initiatives to address the responsibility played by the financial sector and investment in firms operating in these tainted supply chains begin to set a course of action to hold companies and governments accountable.    

Contact: Carolyn Bobb (202) 637-5018