Workers Rally Against Child Labor in Uzbekistan
Date of publication: October 14, 2009
Source: AFL-CIO NOW Blog
By Seth Michaels
Outside the embassy of Uzbekistan today, nearly 100 union members and allies from the Washington, D.C., area rallied to show their support for Uzbek children subjected to child labor. Millions of children, some as young as age 7, could be subjected to long hours of labor in cotton fields this fall.
As young people across the United States have returned to school, children in Uzbekistan are being removed from their classes to pick cotton during the current harvest season. Every year, Uzbek state officials order millions of children, as young as 10 years old, and their teachers to leave school and harvest cotton under hazardous working conditions.
In a statement read on behalf of AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, Stan Gacek from the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department said forced child labor is in violation of not only international labor standards, but basic decency.
Uzbekistan is the sixth largest producer of cotton in the world, earning over $1 billion yearly, and the cotton picked by Uzbek children is processed into the clothes we buy in the United States. Where does this money go?
Not to the children who are forced into the fields. Not into the pockets of farmers who are forced to sell cotton to the state at artificially low prices, keeping them in dire poverty. It goes into the coffers of Uzbek President Karimov, his family, and the cronies closest to him. The Uzbek people don’t see any benefit at all from their hard work and this blatant theft.
The groups who turned out today include the AFL-CIO, the Solidarity Center, the AFT, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), United Electrical Workers, SEIU, Workers United, the Not for Sale Campaign, the Child Labor Coalition, United Students for Fair Trade, the National Consumers League and the United Methodist Church.
You can learn more about the abuse of child laborers in Uzbekistan here.