Saturday, November 4, 2006

New face of slavery in Latin America

Michael Smith and David Voreacos report in the Business Section of today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that unpaid labor produces charcoal at Carvoaria Transcameta near Tucurui, Brazil. The charcoal is used as fuel at a Brazilian blast furnace which produces pig iron. Some of that pig iron is exported to the U.S. by Cia. Siderurgica do Para SA, (Cosipar). Here, some of that pig iron is sold through National Material Trading in Elk Grove, Illinois. One buyer is plumbing fixture manufacturer Kohler Co. in Kohler, Wisconsin.
Kohler says it will conduct its own investigation. "It is clearly disappointing to find that our broker's supplier's supplier employed slave labor practices," says Steve Cassady, director of global procurement at Kohler.

What's the standard for oversight? Here's one opinion.
The products of slave labor enter the U.S. economy because corporations don't ask their suppliers enough questions and haven't worked to root out slavery, says Seungjin Whang, co-director of the Stanford Graduate School of Business's Global Supply Chain Management Forum in Stanford, Calif.

"The major companies should be jointly responsible for labor practices with their suppliers and their suppliers' suppliers," Whang says.

Outside the for-profit context, here's a contrary opinion from Milwaukee's Auxiliary Bishop, Richard Sklba at an October 22, 2002 meeting on sexual abuse by priests.
"Don't you, as a bishop, know what a priest is doing in your diocese?" Sneesby [Michael Sneesby] asked.

"Not all of them," Sklba said.

Something to think about whenever you see the Kohler logo.


  1. Terrence, maybe I am daft...but can you please explain how you shifted from discussing the slave trade and the sex abuse scandal within the same article?

    In reading this you are framing two issues.

    PS..I corrected my blogger id.

  2. It just struck me as odd that it's too much to ask that bishops keep track of a few hundred priests over a ten county area, but business management should be able to keep track of the operations of its suppliers, and its suppliers' suppliers worldwide.