Brutalized children, Globalization,
and the Campaign to End Child Labor
by Robert Weissman
Multinational Monitor, January / February 1997
"We cannot possibly gravitate from a condition of agriculturalism
to a condition of industrialism without the employment of minors."
So testified Lewis Parker, a South Carolina cotton mill owner,
before the U.S. House of Representatives Commit tee on Labor in
1914, in opposition to legislation that would have outlawed the
use of child labor in the United States.
Parker was on the wrong side of history. By the time he testified,
most U.S. states had already adopted legislation limiting the
use of child labor. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into
law an act regulating the use of child labor in industry. The
Supreme Court struck down the law in 1918, but in 1938, with adoption
of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the United States banned the
use of child labor altogether. While the ban still suffers from
serious enforcement problems, the widespread use of child labor
in the United States has been effectively eradicated.
Now, six decades later, the child labor debate is being replayed
on a global scale-with some Third World business interests and
their supporters echoing Parker's arguments- as the world suddenly
awakens to the ongoing scourge of child labor.
With economic globalization tying national economies more
closely together, awareness of the incidence of child labor in
Third World nations is growing rapidly in the industrialized countries,
as Northern consumers respond with discomfort to reports showing
that the clothes they wear and the toys with which their children
play are made by child workers. At the same time, the globalization
process which is spurring the new Northern awareness of child
labor is putting strains on the economies and social structures
of countries in the global South-and, in many ways, intensifying
the problem of child labor.
Forced labor and hazardous conditions
Approximately 120 million children under the age of 14 labor
full-time, according to a 1996 estimate by the International Labor
Organization (ILO) that is widely viewed as the most informed
ever. If those for whom work is a secondary activity are included,
the number of working children rises to 250 million.
The majority of child laborers live in Asia, although Africa
has a higher rate of child labor. The ILO estimates that 40 percent
of African children between the ages of five and 14 work.
The majority of the 120 million full-time working children
labor in the commercial agricultural sector. Child labor is not
confined to any particular economic sector, however. Children
work as domestic servants, in mining, as divers in deep-sea fishing,
in construction, as prostitutes, in toy, shoe and garment factories,
as cigarette makers, as rug weavers, in charcoal making, in glass
and ceramics factories, as sports equipment and surgical instrument
makers, in the match and fireworks industries and in many other
The most appalling circumstances of child labor involve forced
labor and children working in hazardous conditions.
The most common form of forced child labor is debt bondage,
a practice by which parents pledge their children's work to pay
off debts. The debts are often minuscule, but the children may
work for their entire childhood-indeed, for their entire lives-to
pay them off because of fraudulent accounting mechanisms employed
by debt holders.
In Nepal, where bonded laborers are known as "Kamaiya,"
the accounting schemes can keep families in debt for generations.
"Since Kamaiyas are generally not paid enough to meet their
basic needs, many have no choice but to take loans from their
master," explains "By the Sweat and Toil of Children,"
a 1995 U.S. Department of Labor report. "Many also carry
inherited debts, sometimes going back for three or four generations,
in addition to their own."
Debt bondage and other forms of forced child labor are most
pervasive in India, Pakistan and Nepal, where they are supported
by longstanding traditions and cultural biases against low castes
or minority ethnic groups. Human Rights Watch estimates as many
as 15 million children in India may toil as bonded laborers.
Bonded and unbonded child laborers are frequently employed
in shockingly brutal and hazardous conditions. Consider the following
examples highlighted by child labor activists in recent years:
1) Children in the Asian rug industry often work in cramped
quarters, hovering over their work in poorly lit rooms. They frequently
develop spinal deformities from persistent crouching; weakened
eyesight; and respiratory ailments from chronic exposure to dust
and wool fluff in poorly ventilated quarters. Many of the child
laborers receive no wages at all.
Carpet weaving is among the industries employing a high proportion
of bonded children laborers. Bonded children in the Asian rug
industry toil in the most horrifying conditions, working up to
20 hours a day, every day, and living and working in the same
small, damp room.
A 1994 U.S. Department of Labor report cites studies indicating
child rug weavers may number as many as 150,000 in Nepal, one
million in Pakistan and 400,000 in India.
2) Hundreds of boys in Colombia work in labor-intensive coal
mines. With low and narrow passageways, the mine owners-often
parents of the workers-view children as ideally sized to slip
through tunnels and pick at small coal exposures. Hunched over
and straining for breath, the boys carry heavy sacks of coal on
their backs. They are exposed to high levels of dust, risking
permanent lung damage and disease.
3) In Cambodia, children work in brick-making factories, where
they generally work bare handed, and often barefoot. The children
are regularly cut by the bricks, and often drop them on their
hands or feet. Some of the children work with heavy machinery;
and many of them cut their hands or fingers on the machines. More
than half of the child brick workers interviewed for a study by
the Asian-American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI) indicated they
were in debt to their employer. The high incidence of injury and
the substantial debts notwithstanding, AAFLI found, "the
children's biggest complaint was fatigue."
4) Trafficking in young girls sold into prostitution is on
the rise, especially along the Burma-to-Thailand, Nepal-to India,
Vietnam-to-Cambodia and internal Thai routes. Other important
routes include: from Latin America to Europe and the Middle East;
from Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine to Hungary, Poland and the
Baltic states or to West Europe; from the Philippines and Thailand
to Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan; from Southeast Asia to Hawaii
The girls are often sold into prostitution by their parents.
They are moved from rural to urban areas, or to new countries
altogether, where they face a life of exceptional violence and
danger. Customers and brothel operators frequently rape the girls,
and subject them to extreme forms of physical and psychological
abuse. The girls are at high risk of contracting AIDS and other
sexually transmitted diseases, and of having unwanted and early
5) Visions of pastoral serenity notwithstanding, commercial
agriculture work is as difficult and dangerous as any. For children,
the physical demands of cutting, harvesting and hoeing on poorly
mechanized farms or plantations can be overwhelming. "In
Brazil's sugar plantations, for example, children cut cane with
machetes, a punishing task putting them at constant risk of mutilation,"
according to UNICEF's The State of the World's Children 1997.
"They make up a third of the workforce in some areas and
are involved in over 40 percent of the work related accidents."
Pesticides pose a serious danger to children working on plantations.
In addition to the problems which adults face from the "intended,"
as well as the excessive, use of pesticides, children are especially
susceptible to pesticide exposure-related disease and death, because
of their developmental stage. In its 1996 "Child Labor: Targeting
the Intolerable," the ILO cites a study which concludes that,
in rural areas, more children die of exposure to pesticides than
from the most common childhood diseases put together.
Child labor in less severe conditions can also be brutal and
interfere with children's physical, intellectual and emotional
"The physical harm is ... the easiest to see," explains
The State of the World 's Children. "Carrying heavy loads
or sitting for long periods in unnatural positions can permanently
disable growing bodies. Hard physical labor over a period of years
can stunt children's physical stature by up to 30 percent of their
"Children are also vulnerable psychologically,"
the report continues. "They can suffer devastating psychological
damage from being in an environment in which they are demeaned
Searching for causes
It is obvious that poverty and child labor are intertwined.
Brutalized child laborers are almost exclusively poor. Children
typically work to earn money for their families or to help pay
off family debts. And wealthier families do not need or permit
their children to labor at the expense of education and physical,
intellectual and emotional development. But poverty is not, by
itself, the cause of child labor. The fact that rates of child
labor vary dramatically between countries of similar levels of
economic development proves this point most clearly. In China,
for example, there has been little child labor in recent decades,
according to U.S. diplomatic sources. Even though extremely poor
until recent years, China made a political decision to put its
children in school, rather than on the work rolls. Similarly,
Kerala State, in India, the country most famous for abuse of child
labor, has virtually abolished child labor.
The lesson which emerges from the China and Kerala examples
is that child labor can only exist where it is treated as politically
and culturally acceptable.
Many countries have strong traditions of tolerating child
labor, points out Pharis Harvey, executive director of the Washington,
D.C.-based International Labor Rights Fund, and these traditions
often combine with prejudices against ostracized populations.
The result is widespread child labor among certain poor ethnic
Similarly, discriminatory attitudes toward women and girls
may undergird parents' willingness to send their daughters off
to prostitution, or to be domestic servants.
Where education is compulsory, available and understood to
be relevant, child labor rates decline. "Education is one
of the keys that will unlock the prison cell of hazardous labor
in which so many children are confined," says The State of
the World's Children. "It is almost impossible to overemphasize
On the demand side, "research shows that many children
are hired because they are more easily exploited than adults,"
according to the U.S. Department of Labor's "By the Sweat
and Toil." "Employers prefer children because they are
docile, incapable of collective bargaining and willing to work
to support their family or simply to survive."
At least since England's industrialization, employers have
justified their reliance on child labor by claiming children offer
unique skills-"nimble fingers"-in certain areas. But
the ILO reports that its research in hazardous industries in India,
including carpet-making, glass factories, mining, lock making
and gem polishing, has shown this argument to be "entirely
fallacious." "Even in the hand-knotting of carpets,
which calls for considerable dexterity, an empirical study of
over 2,000 weavers found that children were no more likely than
adults to make the finest knots," notes the ILO's "Child
Labor: Targeting the Intolerable."
Globalization and child labor
All of these factors-poverty, cultural traditions, prejudice
against ethnic, religious or racial groups, discrimination against
girls, inadequate access to education and employer desires for
cheap and docile labor-have existed for centuries. What is new
in the child labor equation is economic globalization.
The most obvious contribution globalization is making to the
increase in child labor is its intensification of price competition
for global consumer markets. "This competition makes everyone
look for any way they can lower costs," says Oded Grajew,
director and president of the Abrinq Foundation for Children's
Rights in Brazil. To have child labor means lower costs; because
the wages are very low, children never complain, and they work
long hours with no overtime pay."
This unregulated competition is responsible in significant
part for children sewing garments in Haiti, Guatemala and Honduras
for labels and retailers such as Disney, Kathie Lee Gifford and
Wal-Mart and Phillips-Van Heusen, or making toys for sale in the
U.S. market-the instances of child labor receiving the greatest
attention in the United States in recent years. Even in China,
where child labor has long been minimized, there are reports that
child labor is increasing rapidly in the low-wage export industries
of the Pearl River Delta in the southeast.
The number of children working in the export-oriented sectors
of the economy is small in proportional terms, however. The U.S.
Department of Labor pegs it at approximately 5 percent, although
international price competition- including for goods sold domestically
in competition with foreign imports and as inputs for products
to be exported- may raise the proportion somewhat.
There are other, less obvious but still important ways that
globalization is contributing to an increase in child labor.
Cheap agricultural exports to the Third World and promotion
of export-oriented agriculture in developing countries have rocked
the social structure in rural communities across the globe. Relying
on violence, coercion or sometimes impersonal market forces, plantation
owners have ejected many rural families from their land, depriving
them of their livelihood and leaving them with narrow economic
options. Some have taken work on plantations, where children are
likely to be employed as well; some move to urban slums, where
children may search for jobs to support their family; and some
send their children to urban areas to earn cash to support the
In Brazil, reports the U.S. Department of Labor, the agricultural
sector "underwent a major transformation" in the 1980s.
"Large-scale plantations became increasingly mechanized and
export-oriented, and land became increasingly concentrated in
the hands of large agricultural businesses," states the 1995
edition of "By the Sweat and Toil." "Both resident
workers on plantations and small farmers expelled from their land
joined the ranks of migrant and temporary workers that became
known as 'boias-frias' or 'volantes.' Because the earnings of
many families diminished considerably, they increasingly employed
children to bolster family income. Today, child 'boias-frias'
and 'volantes' comprise a large number of Brazil's child workers."
In Southeast Asia, urbanization and impoverishment of rural
economies are important factors encouraging families to sell their
girls into prostitution.
The rise in child prostitution is also linked to the growth
of international sex tourism, a particularly unsavory manifestation
of globalization. At the macro-economic level, the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank imposition of structural adjustment
policies on Third World economies has strengthened many of the
trends contributing to child labor. As a condition for receiving
further loans, the IMF and World Bank instruct indebted Third
World countries to promote exports and cut government spending.
In many cases, governments pressed by the IMF and World Bank
to reduce spending have reduced expenditures for education. In
recent years, however, the World Bank in particular has recognized
the importance of education and health care, and has urged governments
to maintain programs in these areas as "investments in human
capital." Now, says Peter Fallon, a World Bank economist
currently reviewing the Bank policies relating to child labor,
"the Bank trie[s] to protect those sectors insofar as possible."
Asked about the overall effect of structural adjustment programs
in undermining social protections and government social spending,
Fallon says, "There have been statements that in one or two
countries, the Bank's structural adjustment programs have [increased]
the incidence of child labor." But these claims are "hard
to justify," he says, "because they do not ask what
the counterfactual is." Fallon argues that the countries
"would have been even worse off" and registered higher
rates of child labor if they had not followed Bank advice.
The World Bank has also encouraged governments to charge students
for attending school, or for books and supplies-a so-called "cost-recovery
approach." Even small fees prevent poor families from sending
some or all of their children to school, however, and those unable
to afford school frequently work.
Fallon says the Bank's "cost-recovery approach has been
targeted to secondary and post-secondary education, and that you
are most concerned about primary education" in seeking to
combat child labor.
The myth of inevitability
Given the multiple, overlapping causes of child labor, no
single approach will end the scourge. Most serious analysts agree
that complementary approaches are needed.
Yet the belief that child labor is an inevitable consequence
of poverty-perhaps necessary to help countries develop economically-and
that economic growth is the key to eliminating child labor persists.
In June 1996, for example, USA Today editorialized that "the
West's own history has shown" that for "backward nations
seeking to rise from desperate poverty," it is mechanization
and industrialization that solve child labor.
From a rather different vantage point, an international gathering
of child laborers meeting in India in November 1996 urged those
concerned about child labor to work to alleviate the harsh conditions
under which children work, rather than to eliminate child labor
Pharis Harvey of the International Labor Rights Fund argues
that the USA Today editorial writers and the child workers at
the India meeting have succumbed to the same, mistaken "fatalistic"
view of child labor. "Those people believe child labor is
the product, rather than a cause, of poverty. "
In fact, Harvey argues, "child labor perpetuates poverty,
generates it and regenerates it." Children who work become
sickly adults, and a drain on national economies. With little
if any education, they are less productive workers as adults.
And, children fill jobs that adults would otherwise occupy; in
every country with high rates of child labor, there is a severe
unemployment problem, with adults' skills, creativity and labor
Conscious and purposeful intervention is needed to make meaningful
inroads in eradicating child labor.
Some Third World non-governmental groups have taken direct
action in workplaces, conducting raids to rescue bonded and forced
child laborers. While these raids cannot directly reach a significant
proportion of child laborers, they have focused attention on the
issue. The experience of these groups has also revealed the importance
of establishing rehabilitative programs for children removed from
brutal laboring conditions; the children need access to educational
facilities, physical treatment and psychological counseling.
Third World national governments have the most important role
to play in eliminating child labor. They must enforce national
laws banning the use of child labor, provide quality universal
education for children and ensure that cultural traditions and
prejudices are not allowed to override national commitments to
child-free workplaces. The examples of China and Kerala State
show what developing countries can do in this area, if they choose.
Rich countries and poor, working children
Most have not chosen to crack down on child labor, but there
are increasing possibilities to bring pressure to bear on those
who do not act on their own. With national economies becoming
more interwoven, the children stitching clothes in Haiti or India
or Thailand are more likely than ever before to be doing it for
U.S. or German or other industrialized country consumers. That
fact gives industrialized country governments and consumers the
power to influence Third World country child labor practices.
As Northern consumers have expressed increasing concern about
the conditions under which the products they buy are made, many
corporations have adopted codes of conduct for their overseas
operations and especially for over seas contractors. For its 1996
report, "The Apparel Industry and Codes of Conduct,"
the U.S. Department of Labor surveyed 42 major garment manufacturers,
designers and retailers. It found that 36 had adopted codes of
conduct-many or most in recent years-with provisions specifically
prohibiting the use of child labor in the manufacture of goods
These corporate codes may be having little effect, however,
because they are poorly monitored. While "monitoring is critical
to the success of a code of conduct," says the Department
of Labor, "most of the codes of the respondents do not contain
detailed provisions for monitoring and implementation, and many
of these companies do not have a reliable monitoring system in
place." Virtually none of the corporate codes call for independent
monitoring. Perhaps the sole exception is a 1995 agreement which
The Gap negotiated with the New York-based National Labor Committee.
The agreement grants human rights and religious groups the authority
to inspect The Gap's Salvadoran contractor, the Taiwanese-owned
Mandarin International, and to ensure it upholds The Gap's code
of conduct. Absent assurances from independent monitors and publicly
available reports, consumers have little guarantee that codes
are being meaning fully implemented.
A potentially more reliable means of purging goods made with
child labor from international commerce are labeling programs.
The most prominent child labor-related labeling scheme is the
Rugmark program, an international project which certifies carpets
are made without use of child labor. Independent inspectors validate
that carpet looms do not use child labor; certified carpets bear
the Rugmark smiley face logo; and a slight additional charge for
Rugmark-approved carpets goes to fund not only inspections but
programs to put children who might otherwise be weaving rugs into
Rugmark rugs have captured 30 percent of the German rug market,
the world's largest carpet consumer market. Rug suppliers are
increasingly eager to earn the Rugmark label. Thirty to 40 percent
of Nepalese carpet producers are Rugmark certified, according
to Pharis Harvey, with an additional 30 to 40 percent seeking
certification. Fifteen to 20 percent of carpet looms in India
are under Rugmark license, Harvey says.
Three major U.S. wholesalers sell Rugmark carpets, according
to Harvey, whose organization coordinates Rugmark's U.S. operations,
but Rugmark rugs are still not widely available in the United
States. With the increasing supply of Rugmark rugs, Harvey hopes
to see Rugmark products more widely available in the United States
in the near future.
Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Representative George Miller,
D-California, have introduced a Child Labor Free Consumer Information
Act which would facilitate voluntary labeling schemes for clothing
and sporting goods imported into the United States.
Not all internationally traded goods lend themselves to labeling,
however, and despite Rugmark's considerable success, the delays
in getting the program off the ground and the voluntary nature
of the program suggest the labeling approach will not be a comprehensive
solution to child labor, even in international markets.
A different, more direct approach does hold out the possibility
of a comprehensive solution: a flat-out ban on the importation
of goods made with child labor. In the last several sessions of
the U.S. Congress, Harkin and Brown have introduced the Child
Labor Deterrence Act (commonly known as the Harkin Bill), which
would enact such a ban in the United States, and funnel $10 million
to ILO programs to eliminate child labor.
"Without the passage of the Child Labor Deterrence Act,"
says Darlene Adkins, coordinator of the Washington, D.C.-based
Child Labor Coalition, "the best we can expect is a piecemeal
approach to curtailing the import of items made by exploited children,
and consumers who want child labor-free products will remain frustrated
in the market place . "
The Harkin Bill has generated substantial controversy. Many
Third World governments and some Third World non-governmental
organizations have denounced it as a form of protectionism unfairly
penalizing poor countries. And many non-governmental activists
in particular argue that a sudden ban on child labor-made imports
would throw working children out of their current jobs and into
even more brutal working environments.
The primary support for this claim is the experience of the
Bangladesh garment industry. Fearful of the potential effect of
passage of the Harkin Bill, the Bangladesh garment industry in
1993 fired an estimated 50,000 child workers, approximately two
thirds of the child workers in the garment sector. Many of those
thrown out of work ended up in stone crushing jobs and hustling
on the streets, according to UNICEF, although Harvey says the
UNICEF and similar reports are anecdotal.
But the Bangladesh example seems ultimately to illustrate
the power and effectiveness of the import ban approach. The mere
possibility of passage of the Harkin Bill focused industry and
nationwide attention on the issue of child labor. That heightened
awareness led not only to the sudden decrease in child labor in
the garment industry, but to an agreement, reached in July 1995
between the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association
(BGMEA), UNICEF and the ILO. The BGMEA member companies agreed
to remove all remaining children from their work rolls and to
place children removed from the garment factories in appropriate
educational programs, with stipends.
Even if the political will is generated in the U.S. Congress
to pass the Harkin Bill, however, there is an impediment to implementation.
Because the bill would condition imports on the process by which
the imported goods were made, it would run afoul of the rules
of the World Trade Organization. Both the Congressional Research
Service and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have acknowledged
the WTO-illegality of the Harkin Bill.
Under the rules of the WTO, if the bill were passed, countries
affected by the legislation could challenge it as a non-tariff
trade barrier at the WTO. The United States would be forced to
abandon the legislation altogether, or accept trade sanctions
- fines or tariffs levied on U.S. exports-equivalent to the sales
which countries lost in the United States due to the child-labor
import ban. The only way the United States could avoid this dilemma
would be to quit the WTO altogether.
Challenging child labor
U.S. adoption of the Harkin Bill approach would go a long
way to eliminating child labor from the production of goods intended
to enter into international trade. But child laborers in export-oriented
production make up only a small portion of child laborers.
A comprehensive approach to abolishing child labor will require
not only intervention by industrialized country consumers and
governments, but strong political commitments by Third World governments.
Whether they can muster that political commitment in an era when
the pressures of globalization are exacerbating the conditions
leading to the use of child labor remains to be seen.
Defining child labor
Not all child labor, of course, is as repugnant as the most
hazardous and exploitative forms. Even the most ardent anti-child
labor advocates recognize that appropriate work tasks may teach
children skills and responsibility, bind families together and
contribute to family incomes. In assessing the scope of child
labor and shaping solutions, it is critical to define child labor,
and to distinguish exploitative child labor from appropriate forms.
UNICEF has developed a set of rough criteria to determine
if child labor is exploitative. It designates child labor as inappropriate
if it involves: full-time work at too early an age, too many hours
spent working, work that exerts undue physical, social or psychological
stress, work and life on the streets in bad conditions, inadequate
pay, too much responsibility, work that hampers access to education,
work that undermines children's dignity and self-esteem, such
as slavery or bonded labor and sexual exploitation, work that
is detrimental to full social and psychological development.
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child-signed by every
country except the Cook Islands, Oman, Somalia, Switzerland, the
United Arab Emirates and the United States -obligates governments
to protect children "from economic exploitation and from
performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere
with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health
or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development."
Nearly 50 countries have ratified ILO Convention 138 on minimum
working ages. Convention 138 establishes more stringent guidelines
than the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It sets 15 as
the minimum acceptable working age for industrialized countries,
and 14 for developing nations. It permits children to perform
light work-an undefined term-at age 13 in industrialized countries
and 12 in poorer nations. The convention prohibits work likely
to jeopardize health, safety or morals by children under 18.
The FoulBall campaign
They are the toys of children, manufactured by the exploitation
Much of the world's supply of sporting equipment is made with
child labor. In Pakistan, the world's leading exporter of soccer
balls (supplying more than 60 per cent of the U.S. market), for
example, more than 7,000 children under the age of 14 toil at
stitching soccer balls. The children receive about 60 cents per
ball they stitch, and even older children can only stitch three
or four balls a day. With the support of then-U.S. Secretary of
Labor Robert Reich and other prominent politicians, a coalition
of international trade union federations and non-governmental
labor rights organizations launched the FoulBall Campaign in June
1996 to ensure that "children would no longer kick around
the balls made by impoverished children half a world away,"
in the words of campaign director Dan McCurry. The campaign seeks
to eliminate the use of child labor in the manufacture of soccer
balls. The FoulBall Campaign's first target was the Federation
of International Foot ball Associations (FIFA), the international
soccer coordinating body which places its stamp on high-quality
soccer balls, including those used in professional soccer leagues.
The campaign asked FIFA not to permit its stamp to be used on
balls made with child labor.
Assisted in the United States by support from Reich, and powered
in Europe by controversy following revelation of the soccer ball-child
labor connection during the European soccer championship in June,
the FoulBall Campaign immediately garnered considerable publicity.
Thousands of young soccer players in the United States and Europe
wrote to FIFA and other soccer governing bodies, asking that child
labor be eliminated from soccer ball manufacturing. Following
negotiations with the International Textile, Garment and Leather
Workers Federations and other international union federations,
FIFA announced in August that it would demand all of its licensees
adhere to an extensive labor code as a condition of using the
FIFA label. The labor code prohibits the use of child labor and
other exploitative labor practices. Monitoring of adherence to
the code is to be done by international trade union organizations.
Now, "that FIFA symbol [is] to stand for 'no child labor,"'
In the United States, the FoulBall Campaign continued to pressure
youth soccer federations to endorse an anti-child labor stance.
In early January 1997, the U.S. Youth Soccer Association and the
American Youth Soccer Organization endorsed the FIFA labor code.
With repressive labor practices in their shoe-making factories
in Asia under intense scrutiny, Reebok and Nike quickly sought
to ensure that child labor was not used in soccer balls manufactured
under their labels. In November 1996, Reebok announced its soccer
balls would begin bearing a "Guaranteed: Manufactured ' without
child labor" label by spring 1997. That same month, Nike
and a Pakistani firm opened a soccer-ball stitching plant in Pakistan
that Nike said would not subcontract its work and would not use
The FoulBall Campaign is now planning to expand its focus
to baseballs, tennis balls, volleyballs and other sports balls,
to ensure child labor is not used in their manufacture, according
to McCurry. The organizations supporting the campaign are also
preparing to launch a Fair Ball Foundation to support the education
and rehabilitation of children freed from laboring at ball making.
And, building on the success of the FoulBall Campaign, the
trade unions and non-governmental groups who supported it are
now gearing up for a Freedom Rings Campaign to end the use of
child labor in Olympic sports.