The recent opening of the LA Auto Show was disrupted by protesters aiming to shine a light on harmful practices found in current EV supply chains. In addition to the environmental toll that manufacturing processes take on the environment, EV supply chains are also polluted by Uyghur forced labor and child labor, as reported by Wired.
Exposing the dirty underbelly of EV manufacture
Protesters dressed in Squid Game costumes staged a die-in at the LA Auto Show to draw attention to major environmental and modern slavery issues currently infecting EV production. The supply chain for EVs includes many industries, from mineral mining to metal smelting and battery manufacturing. China, a major supplier of many components needed for EVs, has shifted the mining of raw materials, processing facilities, and parts manufacturing to the Uyghur region, implicating Uyghur forced labor.
According to the Sheffield Hallam University report:
“The Chinese government has…essentially (made) international supply chains captive to repressive programs and systematic forced labor,”
It is widely accepted that anything coming out of the Xinjiang region includes Uyghur forced labor. As the largest automaker, Toyota was singled out by protesters demanding that they use their “purchasing power as a force for good” and stop buying components made in the Uyghur region. Protesters also highlighted that the manufacture of EV components is damaging the environment as it’s often fueled by coal. Protesters criticized Hyundai for their reliance on coal-powered steel plants and their use of undocumented child labor in the U.S. as reported by a Reuters investigation last December.
Partnerships to protect the environment and eliminate modern slavery
A coalition of organizations called Lead the Charge organized this protest. The coalition comprises a diverse network of local, national, and global advocacy partners working for an equitable, sustainable, and fossil-free auto supply chain. Partnerships between climate advocate groups and labor rights groups speak to the power of strategic alliances to support a “just transition” to clean energy that isn’t built on the back of labor exploitation, modern slavery, and environmental degradation.
Matthew Groch, a senior director at one of the coalition partners Mighty Earth said
“If we don’t address this now, in 10 or 15 years, as there’s more and more electric vehicles, it’s going to be hard to put the genie back in the bottle,”
Along with organizations like Lead the Charge, Freedom United takes a firm stand against Uyghur forced labor which not only taints the auto and EV industry but also stains the cotton, fashion, and solar panels sectors and many others. Sadly, the forced labor of Uyghurs and other people from Turkic or mainly Muslim ethnic groups is now a deeply embedded part of the Chinese economy as discussed in our recent online event on consumerism and modern slavery.
Rushan Abbas, Founder and Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs said:
“The Chinese government is making genocide a profitable initiative using slave labor…Millions of people are in concentration camps and forced labor facilities just for being Uyghur.”
According to the report ‘Driving Force: Automotive Supply Chains and Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region,’ over 100 car companies are implicated as having Uyghur forced labor in their supply chain, including Volkswagen, Toyota, Stellantis, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Tesla, Nissan, and BYD. You can be part of the growing group of individuals and organizations calling on the ten biggest car companies in the world demanding that they put people over profits and cut ties with the Uyghur forced labor system. Add your voice and help keep the transition to clean energy truly clean and unstained by modern slavery.