Members of the BlueGreen Alliance today released a comment to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that urged strong implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). In the comment, Sierra Club, United Steelworkers (USW), National Wildlife Federation, Union of Concerned Scientists, League of Conservation Voters, Service Employees International Union, Utility Workers Union of America, American Federation of Teachers, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and the BlueGreen Alliance strongly denounced the use of forced labor in the production of polysilicon and other goods and raw materials, including but not limited to cotton, textiles, and electronics, in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and call for swift and effective implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
The comment stated, “The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) is an important step towards holding the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) accountable for its actions and ensuring the U.S. is not complicit in importing solar panels and other goods made with forced labor and call for effective implementation and enforcement of the Act.”
“The USW is proud to join with our labor and environmental partners in urging our leaders to do everything in their power to stamp out forced labor across global supply chains,” said USW International President Tom Conway. “In particular, we call on the administration to vigorously enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Goods produced wholly or in part in an exploitative system have no place in our markets, and we must remain vigilant until the Chinese government ends its persecution and demonstrates a genuine respect for basic human rights.”
“Workers’ rights are human rights. There is no place for forced labor in the clean energy economy,” said Ramon Cruz, President of Sierra Club. “The Sierra Club proudly joins with our partners in calling on the Biden administration to rapidly implement the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to ensure our transition to a more equitable, clean energy economy supports family-sustaining jobs, not worker exploitation.”
The groups cited comprehensive research from Sheffield Hallam University that has documented forced labor in the production of polysilicon in the Uyghur Region. The research found that “labour transfer” programs, which the PRC has placed millions of indigenous Uyghur and Kazakh citizens from the Uyghur Region into, are deployed in the Uyghur Region within an environment of unprecedented coercion.
The groups called for swift implementation of the UFPLA, including:
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as required, develop and implement concrete strategy with respect to enforcement of the UFLPA;
The CBP should focus not only on goods manufactured in Xinjiang, but also raw materials, including components such as polysilicon, that are mined or refined in the XUAR but may be manufactured elsewhere; and
The CBP commits to ongoing engagement with impacted stakeholders, including solar companies, worker organizations, human rights groups, and allies.
“It is urgent that we take action to solve the climate crisis, but that action can’t be at the expense of workers’ rights, human rights, and equity,” said BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director Jason Walsh. “Trade policy can and should lift up working conditions and support good, union jobs and human dignity and there is no room for forced labor in solar or any other supply chain. We look forward to working with the administration to ensure swift and effective implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.”