Jul 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Hawley to squeeze corporate America on forced labor

Mike Allen
Photo: Tom Williams/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tells Axios he'll introduce legislation this week requiring companies with business overseas to certify that their supply chains are free of forced labor — and he's especially concerned about China.

The state of play: "If these reports from anti-trafficking advocates, anti-slavery advocates are wrong, then the companies will have a chance to set the record straight," Hawley said in an interview. "But they will be held accountable."

  • Hawley also plans to challenge celebrities who endorse the products: "I would hope that anybody who is profiting on that would want to push companies to certify that they're not benefiting from slave labor."

Hawley said multinational corporations "shift our jobs overseas, or they move their supply chains overseas, then they sell them to American consumers and they get celebrities to hawk them on TV."

  • "Just because you are publicly donating money to this or that nonprofit doesn't mean that it's OK to profit off slave labor," the senator added.

Details: The bill requires every corporation with annual worldwide gross receipts of $500 million or more to conduct an audit of its supply chain to investigate the presence or use of forced labor — by the business, or its direct and secondary suppliers.

  • Businesses would submit a report to the Labor Department each year — signed by the CEO — describing efforts to eradicate forced labor from their supply chains.
  • Hawley wants the report to be published on the company's website, with a conspicuous link on the homepage.

From Hawley's plan: "The [Labor secretary] may assess civil damages of not more than $100 million to any corporation that fails the comply with the act, plus punitive damages of not more than $500 million."

  • "[T]he secretary may request the Attorney General institute an injunction, restraining order, or other appropriate order in the district court for any corporation whose violations of the act constitute a hazard to its workers."
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