Earlier this year we visited with Rosa Maria Campos in Brasilia. She leads the union of labor inspectors who visit factories and farms all over Brazil as part of the country’s fight against slavery—inspectors who face budget shortfalls in the capital and hostility from the employers they inspect in the field. Rosa Maria is inspiring—courageous, committed, principled—and unfailingly gracious. But when we mentioned the Dirty List for the second time, she had heard enough. She was polite, but firm, when she cut us off and insisted “It is not a Dirty List. It is a Transparency List.”
The list reflects the Brazil’s extraordinary commitment to transparency. When that commitment is paired with the country’s exceptional worker protections, it creates a powerful tool in the fight against slavery—one that businesses have come to depend on in managing risk in their supply chains.
Last year, we discussed the list with people in Brazil’s private sector working on sourcing, sustainability and social responsibility. Since the list’s inception a decade ago, they have come to rely on it as an important complement to their own traceability systems and sustainable sourcing programs. One social responsibility director told us he couldn’t do his job well without it.
People in the business community in other countries have taken notice.
Last year’s Global Slavery Index held Brazil up as an example, specifically praising its “progressive business engagement response to modern slavery, in particular through policies on supply chain transparency.”
The Guardian cites the list as a central part of what it calls one of the more “interesting models for how to get business to engage with the problem of forced labor.”
And Business Insider says the list is an important part of what it calls: “A Brilliant Approach To Ending Modern-Day Slavery.”
There is only one problem. The list has been suspended. Indefinitely.
It all started last summer, when a construction firm with a World Cup stadium contract was added to the list. It filed an injunction and got its name removed. Several months later, a powerful lobby for the construction industry filed another injunction with the Supreme Court in an effort to suppress the list. During its year-end recess, just days before the list was scheduled for is semi-annual update, one justice ruled the list unconstitutional and suspended its publication. That was almost a year ago now. No official list has been published since July 2014.
The Ministry of Labor has been working behind the scenes to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court regarding due process for employers inspected and slated for inclusion in the list, but it is not likely to release the “all-new-and-improved” version until the current injunction is lifted. And there is no telling when that might happen.
Meantime, labor rights advocates have found a work-around. The Supreme Court injunction may have closed one window, but Brazil’s commitment to transparency is so broad that others remained open. Our partners at Repórter Brasil, together with our friends at InPACTO, filed a request with the Ministry of Labor under the country’s Access to Information Act—kind of like our Freedom of Information Act—for the information it would have published on the Dirty List if it hadn’t been suspended. The request was granted, and the organizations jointly published what they call the “Transparency List of Slave Labor.” This list is unofficial, but based on official information—-an “unofficial official” list.
Rosa Maria was right. It is a transparency list.
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This post is the sixth in an eight-part series on the CRS Coffeelands blog about modern slavery in Brazil’s coffee sector. The series draws on research coordinated by CRS and conducted by Repórter Brasil with the generous support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and allies working in the coffee sector, including: Allegro Coffee Company, CRS Fair Trade, Fair Trade USA, Equal Exchange, Keurig Green Mountain, Lutheran World Relief, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, United Farmworkers, UTZ Certified and others. The views expressed in this series are those of its author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the companies or organizations that provided financial support for the research that informed this series.