Retail sellers of agricultural products, regardless of where the product originated, who do business in Washington and have a worldwide gross receipt of more than $200 million, would be required to disclose violations of employment-related laws, incidents of slavery, peonage or working to payback debt, and human trafficking, under proposed legislation.
Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D- Seattle, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5693, which passed from the Labor and Commerce Committee to the Senate Rules Committee on Feb. 21.
“It’s my job, I believe, as a consumer to make sure that I’m asking the hard questions around and supporting industry to be able to help us eradicate slavery and to make sure that people are having their human rights protected and respected,” Saldaña said. “This is really a step in that direction.”
Indira Trejo, the global impact coordinator for United Farm Workers, testified in front of the labor and commerce committee in support of the bill.
“I have learned that globally farm workers face many of the same issues, around the world,” Trejo said. “Farm workers risk being seen as disposable and invisible, stripped of their human dignity and worth.”
Washingtonians want to know when a worker involved in the agricultural process is being treated unfairly, Trejo said.
Carolyn Logue of the Washington Food Industry Association testified in opposition to the bill.
“We think what this will do is create a paperwork nightmare with significant liabilities for a lot of our businesses without dealing really effectively and efficiently with the very real problem of human trafficking and the other problems listed here,” Logue said.
Agricultural product is defined in the bill as cocoa, dairy, coffee, sugar and fruit products. The bill also defines what agricultural products do not mean, which is wheat, potato, onions, asparagus or other vegetable products.
Tom Davis with the Washington Farm Bureau noted that 95 percent of the farms in the state are family farms and that the “accusations” made in this bill towards them are “outrageous.”
“It presupposes that slavery, peonage and human trafficking are taking place on our family farms,” Davis said.
To read the full story by Emma Epperly on Nisqually Valley News: Click HereTags: Agriculture, Labor, Washington State
Category: Corporate Responsibility