- The United States has banned imports of disposable gloves produced in Malaysia by manufacturer Brightway Holdings over allegations of forced labor, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement Monday.
- Customs officials issued a Withhold Release Order that instructs personnel to detain Brightway-made gloves at U.S. ports of entry. The move came after an investigation found the company met 10 of the 11 International Labour Organization's indicators of forced labor, according to the statement.
- Brightway is the fifth Malaysia-based glove manufacturer to have its imports banned from the U.S. over forced labor allegations since September 2019. The company is also a supplier of Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex.
Sanctions against Brightway come as officials have ramped up enforcement of forced labor laws over the past few years.
Lawmakers repealed a provision in 2015 that previously allowed products of forced labor to enter the country if no comparable product was made in the U.S. or if domestic production could not meet demand, giving customs officials more enforcement power.
Customs and Border Protection has so far issued eight Withhold Release Orders in 2021. Three of those orders target glove makers in Malaysia.
Malaysia officials raided Brightway facilities last December, and found workers living in conditions Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan compared to "modern slavery," according to a Reuters report. The company faces 30 charges for violating laws on minimum housing and amenity standards.
"We are aware of the WRO issued against Brightway Holdings, and Kimberly-Clark has taken action to ensure we are in compliance with the order," a spokesperson for the company said in a statement to Supply Chain Dive. "We will continue to monitor Brightway’s progress to help ensure they enact meaningful and sustained change for the betterment of their workers."
Withhold Release Orders put the burden of proof on the importer to prove shipments do not contain the banned materials or product, requiring shippers to have visibility throughout all tiers of the supply chain.
The U.S. has also taken steps to sanction suppliers in the Xinjiang region of China over allegations of forced labor. President Joe Biden signed a law Thursday banning imports from the region unless businesses can prove that goods were made without the use of forced labor. A similar broad-based ban is in place for goods from North Korea.
In a statement before the bill signing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration will work to "ensure global supply chains are free of forced labor, while simultaneously working to on-shore and third-shore key supply chains, including semiconductors and clean energy."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
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