Sen. Josh Hawley

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley talks Wednesday about his legislation that intends to rid forced labor from the supply chain of American companies with manufacturing overseas.

A Missouri senator wants to call to account American companies whose manufacturing bases overseas rely on forced labor.

Sen. Josh Hawley cites a number of household brands, plus the National Basketball Association, for decrying the lack of social justice in the United States while ignoring human rights abuses that pad their profits abroad.

“It is not too much to ask that these American companies stand up for American principles, and one of them is you don’t use slave labor,” the Republican lawmaker said Wednesday.

In an interview with the News-Press NOW, Hawley discussed his introduction of legislation titled the Slave-Free Business Certification Act.

If enacted, the measure would require corporate CEOs to certify all manufacturing supply chains are operated free of forced labor. Penalties will be built into the law for offenders.

On Twitter, the senator called out companies like Nike and Apple, plus NBA star LeBron James, to take the pledge to reject corporate dealings that have the slave trade as their foundation.

“Surely we can all agree that in the 21st century, no American company ought to be supporting the slave trade. Nobody ought to be profiting off the slave trade,” Hawley said. “There is a slave trade still today in the world, and our companies shouldn’t be profiting off of it. This legislation would stop that.”

Hawley has become a leading voice in the criticism of China for its aggression in the Pacific Rim and globally. Congress has this year become increasingly unsettled by China’s oppression of the mostly Muslim Uighur population in the northwestern part of that country, those residents often forced into state-run labor camps.

Last month, in its annual “Trafficking in Persons” report, the U.S. State Department highlighted China’s widespread use of forced labor, with those detained in camps estimated as at least 1 million Muslims.

The senator’s office noted that at least 80 international companies have been linked to the Uighur slaves.

“My legislation says end the slave labor in your supply chains,” Hawley said in the interview. “They would have to certify these companies that there is no slave labor in their supply chains, and if they can’t do that, they get hit with fines.”

Ken Newton can be reached at ken.newton@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.​