United Farm Workers National Vice President Erik Nicholson issued the following statement after passage today by the Washington state Senate Labor and Commerce Committee of UFW-sponsored SB 5693, requiring retailers to reveal what actions, if any, they have taken to address slavery and forced labor in their agricultural supply chains:
Passage today of SB 5693, the Transparency in Agricultural Supply Chain Act, is the first step in enacting this groundbreaking and unprecedented measure. The bill will shine a bright light on human trafficking, forced labor and other labor violations occurring on farms that put food on the tables of consumers in Washington state and across the nation. The bill now moves to the Senate Rules Committee.
By requiring companies to reveal what, if anything, they are doing to address slavery and forced labor in their agricultural supply chains, SB 5693, by Senators Saldana, Keiser, Hasegawa and Das, will let consumers know the conditions under which their food is produced.
Farm workers feel victorious. For too long, employers violating the law—including those engaged in forced labor and slavery—have continued selling produce to consumers with impunity. Consumers and many retailers have no way of knowing about violations committed by growers who supply them.
Under this bill, growers will have to report to retailers that sell their produce about violations for which they have been found guilty. Consumers, in turn, will be able to make informed decisions about purchasing produce from those growers.
Conversely, SB 5693 will identify growers who are complying with the law, thus creating an even playing field. Rather than only focusing on price, we hope retailers will pay greater attention to the working conditions and legal compliance on the farms from which they buy.
Under the measure, retailers with gross worldwide sales of more than $200 million must make an annual disclosure of labor law violations, incidents of peonage and human trafficking, government citations or violations and criminal convictions.