Cotton Industry cleans up his act
Cotton is all around us. We wear clothes made by cotton, it's in towels, our bed linen, etc.
Until recently vast amounts of cotton was being produced in slavery-like conditions. There were sweatshops in Bangladesh and India and even governments of Uzbekistand and Turkmenistan organized forced labor. More than a million children and adults were forced to pick cotton in terrible conditions.
But a few weeks ago the annual harvests in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan began and this time it was different. Nobody was forced out into the fields. Two days before the annual harvest began, an agreement was reached concerning the labour conditions and pay of the cotton workers. At first the cotton industry was reluctant, but after the USA and Europe made clear that they would no longer import any cotton picked by forced labor, the cotton companies saw no other option than to give in to the demands.
The cotton price has risen due to higher costs of production. But because there are no alternatives in the world, the cotton gets sold anyway. And the most unexpected thing is already happening. The cotton workers are already investing some on their money into good things. Uzbekistan reports a steep rise in school applications for schools. Landlords are quickly building homes to accomodate the need for decent housing. Docters are reporting a downfall of work related illnisses.
The small step of offering decent labour conditions and pay is already making an enormous impact for the good. We applaud the cotton companies for making the cotton industry fair again.
The Uzbek and Turkmen governments both responded to requests to comment on this piece. Their message was loud and clear: we should have done this much sooner. We are very happy with the outcome and will look for ways to further improve the situation in the cotton industry and use this as an example for other industries.