WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor announced today an availability of up to $5 million in grant funding to support core standards to combat labor abuses by employers in Mexico’s tomato and chile pepper sectors’ supply chains. Mexico is the world’s largest exporter of tomatoes and chile peppers.
Strategically aligned with Mexican labor law and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, funding will support a project to eliminate child and forced labor, improve working conditions, empower workers and strengthen due diligence efforts that promote worker voice. The project will be aimed at strengthening compliance and remediation systems that emphasize worker participation in Mexican states, including Baja California, Baja California Sur and Chihuahua.
Administered by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, the grant will support a worker-centered approach to increase compliance with Mexican labor laws as a means of ending child and forced labor abuses and promoting acceptable working conditions.
On Sept. 29, 2021, ILAB released the 20th annual edition of the “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor,” which provides an overview of 131 countries and territories’ child labor situations – including trafficking, debt bondage, forced labor, hazardous work, commercial sexual exploitation and the use of children in armed conflict or illicit activities. It details how these governments are working to eliminate child labor through legislation, law enforcement, policies and social programs; and provides more than 2,200 country-specific recommendations for government action in each of these areas.
In 2018, the department determined that Mexican suppliers are using forced and child labor in the production of tomatoes and chile peppers. Currently, the U.S. imports 85 percent of the tomatoes and 72 percent of the chile peppers that Mexico exports.