Two senators are asking 27 major U.S. companies about the use of child labor in their supply chains following recent media investigations into exploited migrant children.
Sen. Alex Padilla, chair of a subcommittee on immigration, and John Hickenlooper, chair of a subcommittee on workplace safety, asked some of the largest U.S. companies how they vet their contractors and train their own employees to prevent child labor violations.
The senators addressed their April 5 letter to the CEOs of Walmart, Target, PepsiCo, Frito Lay, J. Crew, Whole Foods, General Mills, Ben & Jerry’s, Ford and General Motors, among others named in a New York Times report on migrant child laborers working for major companies or their contractors.
The letter posed six questions directly to the companies regarding their corporate practices and vetting of contractors. The Senate leaders asked for responses by April 26.
“We ask that you carefully examine your hiring procedures, workplace safety, and compliance with wage and hour laws as they apply to minors,” the senators wrote. “Your staff must be trained, and retrained if necessary, on federal and state child labor laws to ensure that children are not being placed in harm’s way, and employees must have the opportunity to report unfair labor practices without risk or fear of retaliation.”
Along with the Times story, the letter follows some high-profile investigations into the use of child labor. That includes the U.S. Labor Department’s $1.5 million penality against Packers Sanitation Services over illegally employing more than 100 minors in hazardous jobs in food sanitation, according to the agency.
The department is also in talks with Hyundai Motor Group over alleged child labor violations in the automaker’s supply chain. That followed a Reuters report that found children as young as 12 had worked at an Alabama supplier factory owned by a Hyundai subsidiary.