The U.S. Department of Labor has granted USD 2,000,000 to support a project on addressing child and forced labor in coffee supply chains in Guatemala, contributing to the U.S. Government’s efforts to advance respect for human rights among businesses.

The United States is the leading importer of Guatemalan coffee, accounting for over a third of the country’s coffee exports. But before that coffee reaches our cups, over half a million Guatemalans select, pick and process the beans. Many of Guatemala’s coffee workers migrate within the country with their families to work in coffee plantations during the harvest. The vast majority of coffee workers are indigenous men, women, and children with low levels of education who come from marginalized populations vulnerable to labor violations. Children travelling with their families are engaged in child labor and work under hazardous conditions. In addition, reports have identified a range of forced labor indicators in coffee production in Guatemala, such as widespread use of recruitment fees, document retention, indebtedness to company stores, restrictions on freedom of movement and overtime and minimum wage violations. Weak government enforcement of labor laws and an uncoordinated, fragmented, ineffective response of the private sector enable systemic labor violations to continue unabated in the Guatemalan coffee sector.

This project will help businesses establish systems to prevent, detect and eliminate child labor and other forms of labor exploitation from their supply chains, and will assemble a powerful coalition of coffee buyers to collectively incentivize compliance among suppliers. In doing so, the project will help promote supply chains free of exploitative labor and a fair playing field for workers in the U.S. and around the world.

The project will facilitate sustained, sector-wide change in labor practices through an integrated strategy. It will develop and pilot innovative new social compliance tools that help businesses reduce child labor, forced labor and unacceptable working conditions in business operations and supply chains. By adopting these tools, businesses will be better able to implement social compliance systems that can prevent, detect and eliminate egregious labor abuses.

A key aspect of the proposed strategy is assembling a powerful coalition of coffee buyers that can collectively exert leverage over suppliers, communicate common expectations, and provide suppliers with the resources, frameworks, guidance, tools and trainings needed to eradicate forced labor, child labor and wage, hour and health and safety violations from their supply chains.

Project Duration: December 2017 – December 2020
Grantee: Verité
Implementing Partners: Research-Education-Action-Change (REACH) and Catholic Relief Services

Click here to find out more about the work of the Bureau of International Labour Affairs.
More information on the project can be found here.

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