New Calif. law focuses on slave labor

December 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Here's a troubling question: how many slaves were involved in making the things you own or something you are about to buy? You might be shocked to find out. A new social media site in the Bay Area is working to end slave labor.

Ever wonder who makes those inexpensive clothes and expensive designer goods you bought this holiday season? Justin Dillon, from SlaveryFootprint.org, says the short answer is millions of slaves. Not just poor, underpaid, foreign workers.

"What we're talking about is someone who is being forced to work without pay under threat of violence, being economically exploited and unable to walk away," said Dillon.

Dillon says 27 million people worldwide are in this condition. He says if you really want to know how many slaves have made the goods you've bought or are about to buy, you can take his test.

His company and social website share the same name slaveryfootprint.org. With a grant from the state department and money from Google, he and others are in the fight to stop slavery. Here on the site you select what your household is like, the kinds of foods you eat, cosmetics, jewelry electronics, clothes... you get the idea. At the end the site gives you the estimated slaves you indirectly employed to get all those items.

"We believe this is a shared value. Nobody wants to buy products made with slavery and I don't think people really want to sell products with slavery. And yet, it's still in the products we have," said Dillon.

Dillon says that the work starts with the producer of the commodity. A new California law that takes effect Jan. 1 requires that the more than 3,200 California companies that have gross receipts of $100 million or more have to report whether or not their supply chain uses slave labor.

Sara Merritt of San Jose is ready to apply pressure to retailers to support abolishing slave labor.

"I want to know, so I just stay away until I know for sure 110 percent that they're not using slave labor to make their clothes," said Merritt.

Dillon says the law has as many teeth as the state attorney general wants to give it.

"It allows companies to do this on their own, it allows them to talk about what they're doing, and if you're not doing anything then obviously that doesn't look good," said Dillon.


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