A proposed federal bill to combat human trafficking and forced labor in the corporate supply chain is an opportunity for Catholics to speak up in defense of oppressed people around the world, its supporters say. “As Catholics in the United States, we work to fight human trafficking because it is an affront to the lives and dignity of our brothers and sisters who are its victims,” Catholics Confront Global Poverty said in an Aug. 21 action alert. “Thanks in large part to growing awareness, education and outreach, more companies are aware of the possible existence of modern-day slavery in their global operations and supply chains,” the group said. Catholics Confront Global Poverty is a joint initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services. The initiative is backing proposed federal legislation that would require companies to make public information about their products’ supply chains to ensure their products do not result from child labor, forced labor, slavery and human trafficking. The Catholic initiative asks Catholics and others to contact Congress in support of the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives July 27 by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). The legislation deems forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor as “among the most egregious forms of abuse that humans commit against each other.” The bill notes the United States’ role as the world’s largest importer. Catholics Confront Global Poverty says companies have a responsibility to address human rights and issues like exploitation in their supply chains. The Catholic initiative cited Pope Francis’ Jan. 1 World Day of Peace message, which stressed business’ duty to be vigilant so that “forms of subjugation or human trafficking do not find their way into the distribution chain.” “Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers,” the Pope added. He said every person should be aware that purchasing is “always a moral — and not simply an economic — act.” The Catholic backers of the proposed U.S. law have a long history of helping trafficking victims. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its partners have provided intensive case management to over 2,300 survivors of trafficking and over 500 of their family members in over a decade. For its part, Catholic Relief Services has enacted 100 programs in over 35 countries to reduce human trafficking. The agency has taken part in many public-private initiatives to engage corporations to eliminate the worst forms of slave labor.
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