EurasiaNet: Over 100 Companies Eschew Uzbek Cotton
Each fall, authorities in Uzbekistan force some 2 million children and adults to pick cotton. Students, if they refuse to participate, are threatened with expulsion, adults with the loss of their jobs and social benefits for their families. Under this system, the government purchases cotton at a preferential price and sells it abroad at much higher market rates. The handy profit appears to benefit the country’s ruling elites.
Now, over 100 global apparel brands have pledged to boycott Uzbek cotton and textiles. By doing so, they are telling the “the government of Uzbekistan that the apparel industry does not tolerate modern day slave labor,” says the Oakland-based Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), which has organized the pledge.
In its fifth year, the international campaign against Uzbek cotton is having a positive impact, asserts RSN Director Patricia Jurewicz. “Reports from activists who saw this year's cotton harvest agree that fewer young children were forced into the fields. Unfortunately, the Uzbek government is forcing more older children, aged 15 to 19, and adults into their places,” she told EurasiaNet.org.
Some of those adults include doctors and nurses, the BBC reported last month, leaving clinics and hospitals short staffed. Other journalists have found teachers in the field, meaning that even if young schoolchildren are not being forced to pick cotton this year, schools are still, in some cases, closing for the fall harvest.
As of November 1, the list of 108 companies that have joined the boycott includes Fruit of the Loom, Gap, and Levi Strauss & Co, EurasiaNet reports.