WASHINGTON, July 3, 2015 – This July 4, the masses will be celebrating as usual with outdoor grilling, trips to parks and an evening of fireworks. The skies will light up once again with the beauty and majesty of sparkling color and grand designs that bring us such wonder that our inner child will reawaken, if only for a few moments in time.
Most who watch the fireworks are not aware of their dark side. Thousands of women and children are caught in the forced labor of making these beautiful symbols of victory. While our world lights up, women and children who produce the products are living in a darkness that will never turn to light. They suffer bruises, burns and chemical reactions while making the firecrackers, leaving many scarred, their fingers grafted together due to melted skin. There are no fond memories for these thousands who suffer silently, used by corporations who prefer that a dollar bill burn a hole in their pockets rather than end the suffering of these children whose innocence they have stolen.
About two-thirds of the firecrackers that are used in the United States come from China, and many of them are made with the forced labor of children. According to Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) in Maryland, 95 percent of fireworks intended for general consumer use were imported from China in 2001. Sales of those products amounted to $433 million that year. APA represents more than 260 companies, including manufacturers, retailers, importers and pyrotechnical experts.
In some factories, elementary-age children have a quota of 1,000 fireworks per day. Workers earn nothing for their production, so workers don’t even have the luxury of buying the work that they produce. Not only is the lack of pay unjust, but there is also a high risk of accident. A 2001 explosion in Southern China killed 38 children. The Chinese government initially attempted to cover this egregious tragedy, but later recanted and apologized when the truth came out through advocates.
According to UNICEF, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that in developing countries, 250 million children between ages 5 and 14 work. More than 60 percent of them live in Asia.
Children are maimed daily in the production of fireworks. A video created by Hari Raja in India shows us the horrific effects of making fireworks.
The United States could ban import of fireworks made with forced labor, but has failed to do so. According to an article posted by Carl Olson on July 7, 2013, the U.S. government has failed to ban import of goods made by forced/slave labor (adult and child) under the Tariff Act of 1933. The U.S. has not enforced its own law banning the import of goods made with forced labor since 2000 because of significant loopholes, the Associated Press has found.
Before you rush to buy fireworks this Independence Day, think about the women and children who produce them. Check to see where the fireworks are made before purchasing them.
We can give a happy Independence Day to thousands of women and children across the world by simply making a choice to liberate them through our buying habits. Take a stand and refuse to invest in these products. Where there is no demand there is no product. When one person is not free, none of us are free.
Yvonne Williams is the author of “Slaves of a Different Kind: Unshackling Our Soul to Heal America,” available on amazon.com books. Read more about the author here www.yvonnewilliams.net.