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March 16, 2005

Chao Takes Heat at Hearings

Slammed for Cuts in International Labor Funds, Wal-Mart Sweetheart Deal

At hearings yesterday before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Elaine Chao was criticized by Tom Harkin for the cuts in funding to protect international workers' rights, including abandoning spending on fighting international child labor abuses. (Info from Daily Labor Report).

The Labor Department's International Labor Affairs Bureau received $94 million last year; the Bush administration is proposing to cut that to just $12.4 million this year.

Harkin linked the administration's abandonment of international child labor issues to its sweetheart deal on child labor issues with Wal-Mart:

Questioning the administration's commitment to child labor issues, Harkin called the agreement "unprecedented" and asked whether the 15-day notice for future investigations was typical. Harkin also quizzed Chao on reports that DOL withdrew its initial press releases announcing the settlement under pressure from Wal-Mart.
All Chao could argue was that the agreement was "not well-written" but claimed it was not unusual, pointing to a 90-day notice provision in another settlement. But as BNA pointed out:
The 90-day notice period, provided in a 1999 settlement with Genesis Healthcare Ventures, was in response to a series of wage and hour violations...The Genesis agreement gave the company 90 days to perform a self-audit after notice from DOL, but did not guarantee notice of future investigations. In contrast, the Wal-Mart settlement provided 15-days of advance notice on future investigations but did not permit self-audits.
Put these facts together and you have an administration that doesn't care about child labor abroad-- thereby helping to feed cheap manufactured goods to companies like Wal-Mart -- or child labor at home, to help Wal-Mart and other low-wage shops staff their stores.

Posted by Nathan at March 16, 2005 08:44 AM