Reps. Joseph Aragona, Matthew Bierlein, Phil Green and Gina Johnsen today unveiled legislation that condemns forced labor, protects children and positions Michigan to lead by example.
The bills specifically forbid state funds from being used to purchase or subsidize any project that utilizes forced labor or child labor. This includes, but is not limited to, sourced materials for solar panels and electric vehicle battery components.
“This legislation draws a clear line in opposition to any industry that utilizes forced labor or child labor,” Green said. “It states that if you’re going to do business in or with the state of Michigan, you must certify that your products are not sourced through these abhorrent actions. These bills protect children, position our state as a leader in working to stamp out forced labor, and prioritize a responsible and ethical use of people’s tax dollars.”
The extraction of lithium, cobalt, manganese, palladium and other minerals used for the production of EV batteries and solar panels has been tied to rampant human rights abuses around the world, including human trafficking, slave labor and child labor. Reports from the Democratic Republic of Congo and western China have revealed massive and systematic efforts to extract and export materials using virtually any means necessary.
“This is especially important now that Michigan has leadership that has led us to a renewable future with solar and wind power mandates for the state by 2040,” said Aragona, of Clinton Township. “We’ve essentially just told the world that we plan to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on this type of equipment over the next twenty years. We have to be just as aggressive in defining what that means ethically. The cheapest price cannot be allowed to win in these debates — the best price may mean the worst working conditions. We have to be willing to vote with our dollars in favor of free and fair labor markets, even on the other side of the world.”
“It is our duty to ensure that green energy products coming into our state are not tainted by the exploitation of forced labor, unsafe working conditions, or oppressive child labor,” said Bierlein, of Vassar. “These bills recognize and condemn forced and child labor and make it clear that Michigan will not be a part of these unethical supply chains. These bills are a step towards ensuring that the products we use to power a green energy revolution are as clean in their production as they are in their operation.”
Aragona’s legislation prevents any agency or department in the state from entering into a contract with a provider if it involves the installation or repair of a solar panel or solar panel component, unless they can prove forced or child labor was not used at any point during their process.
The bill joins others in the plan that set up similar forced labor stopgaps for electric vehicle components and projects through the Michigan Strategic Fund, which is used to provide grants, loans and appropriations to attract new corporations to the state. Bierlein’s proposal lays out enforcement mechanisms for the plan.
Johnsen, of Lake Odessa, is offering a corresponding resolution that condemns unethical and irresponsible manufacturing practices, namely child labor, in the production of electric vehicles and solar panels.
“My colleagues and I condemn the use of forced labor in the manufacture of any components used in electric vehicles and solar panels,” Johnsen said. “Any decent human should acknowledge that child labor is deplorable and advocate for ethical labor practices and basic human rights.”
The plans are contained within House Bills 5322-25 and House Resolution 168.
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