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Bill would expose violations in agricultural supply chains

OLYMPIA (Feb. 15, 2018) — Today, agricultural workers and United Farm Worker activists will have their eyes on Olympia to express support the first hearings of SB 5693, the Transparency in Agricultural Supply Chains Act.  This act, co-sponsored by Sens. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), Karen Keiser (D-Kent), Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle) and Mona Das (D-Covington), is designed to provide transparency and corporate accountability for any labor abuses within the agricultural supply chain.

“Consumers in our state who want to buy products that reflect their values have a right to know whether a company they purchase from is following through on its commitment to production integrity,” said Saldaña, the bill’s prime sponsor.

The bill would require any retail sellers and manufacturers with an annual gross receipt above $100 million to disclose any actions taken with respect to its product supply chains and the steps taken to eradicate slavery, trafficking and other forms of exploitation and to protect workers’ rights. It will also require retailers to report any violations of slavery, peonage, and human trafficking within 30 days of the violation. This bill will empower the state attorney general or any Washington resident to commence civil action against retailers, manufacturers and suppliers for not following these procedures.

A public hearing on SB 5693 is scheduled for today at 1 p.m. in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. Testimony will come from agricultural workers, experts in the field of human trafficking, concerned consumers and labor advocates with knowledge of the global context of labor abuse and the supply chain.

“This legislation would help hold corporations accountable to the workers who build their profits. The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO has — and always will — stand against slavery, peonage, and human trafficking. Agricultural workers deserve nothing less than a workplace free from racism, sexism and harassment,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, which represents  more than 550,000 union members in the state of Washington. “We thank Senator Rebecca Saldaña for her leadership as the prime sponsor.”

Washington consumers deserve to know the products they are purchasing were not produced by exploited workers. Under SB 5693, any corporations doing business in the state of Washington will have to take responsibility for human rights violations within their supply chain.

Adelaida Mendoza, an agricultural worker from the Yakima Valley, knows too well how vulnerable farmworker communities are to employment law violations, and how difficult it is to hold corporations accountable for their supply chains.

“Many of us have worked for bad employers that broke the law by underpaying for the hours worked, or refusing to allow the breaks required by law,” Mendoza said. “The stores that sell those products take no responsibility for violations committed by their suppliers. This bill would change that mentality.”

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