Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hey, Your Toyota was partly made by slaves

Slaves in Brazilian charcoal camp--
making fuel for pig iron smelting--
pig iron goes into steel to make cars by Toyota in N.America

Another aspect of production that Toyota keeps very opaque:

Human Trafficking: Hey, your Toyota is partly made by slaves

Nearly one million men, women and children work for little or no wages as forced laborers in Latin America. They are modern-day slaves that are lured from their impoverished towns by slave camp bosses promising high paying jobs. This is the case of many people working in the Amazon jungle of Brazil as slaves are forced into hard labor such as clearing trees, mining for gold and most importantly, making charcoal that will be used to make pig iron. According to an article inObservatorio Social, the Brazilian Amazon produces the world’s best pig iron, which is a key ingredient of steel which is then used in the production of automobile parts. This steel then ends up in cars and trucks made in the United States by Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Toyota.
At the slave camps visited by Bloomberg News in Brazil, the conditions were atrocious. The slaves lived in small wooden shacks surrounded by miles and miles of jungle where they had no electricity, no toilets or any other kind of plumbing, no safety goggles, shoes, gloves or tools needed for work, and all drank unsanitary water that was filled with dust, tadpoles and insects. The slave camp bosses had lured them into camp with promises of jobs but then once at camp the workers are charged hundreds of dollars for food, transport, and clothing which is then held as debt and then forced, sometimes by gunpoint, to be worked off.
The lack of money, miles of dangerous jungle, a long distance from home, sometimes hundreds of miles, and intimidation, make it impossible for the hopeless slaves to leave.
After an investigation by Bloomberg News was released exposing these companies, Toyota Motor, the world’s second largest auto-manufacturer, did not join Ford Motors, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and Honda when they announced plans to work together to train suppliers to avoid buying materials made by slaves. The Bloomberg findings reported that U.S Customs’ records showed that Toyota Tsusho America in New York, known as TAI, was named as the importer of 13,699 metric tons of pig iron from Usina Siderurgica de Maraba SA or Usimar, a company that purchases its charcoal from Brazilian slave camps, just two days after the Bloomberg article was published.
Toyota continues to deny any wrong doing, saying that to the best of TAI’s knowledge all Brazilian pig iron producers that TAI purchases from don’t buy charcoal from slave camps because they have written assurances from their suppliers. The fact is that it is well documented that Usimar had dropped out of a Brazilian association of pig iron producers which sponsored programs to combat slavery in charcoal camps. “It’s very clear that Toyota is in denial.” says Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves, the U.S branch of the oldest human rights group in the world. “They’re being disingenuous. That just doesn’t wash. Just a hint of slavery in a supply chain is unacceptable” he added.
It is truly a disgrace when a large company, such as Toyota, simply looks the other way and ignores the inhumane practices of its suppliers just to make a bigger profit. The products of slave labor enter our economy because corporations like Toyota Motors don’t ask their suppliers enough questions. It is irresponsible and these companies need to be held accountable. American consumers must be alerted of their practices. One would hope that most Americans would be appalled by this immoral behavior and be discouraged from buying cars that were made from parts involving slave labor. Consumers need to be informed in order to make knowledgeable decisions when making purchases so that they can exert a certain amount of influence on companies’ behavior and policies. It is our moral duty to do so.
Here's a more completely researched story from Bloomberg. 
Are things improving since then? Not really clear that they are.
Bloomberg story on charcoal slave camp and where the pig iron goes
Here's another story:
Joel H. Smith, in one of your emails to your opposing counsel, 
you bemoaned the problem of your having to work while your daughter was going off to college. 
She is going to be educated with money you made from the company that has made its money partly from the work of this kind of child slave in Brazil. 
Do you get the connection, Joel?
Will this child ever be sent to college?
And you will disregard this child,
and won't you be so proud of your daughter's achievements and her bright future.

Where are the parents of this child?