It was reported today, on May Day no less, that a woman in Arizona found a note from a Chinese prison laborer in a purse she bought from Wal-Mart. Convict labor-produced goods have been making it into American (2) and European markets for years, and these notes are one of the few ways it has been uncovered. Considering that the U.S. has an unambiguous law prohibiting the importation of goods produced with forced, convict, and child labor, why is this still happening?
One of the reasons I find Corporate Accountability Lab (CAL) so exciting is that it creates a space from which we can design and test interdisciplinary, praxis-driven experiments to stop corporate abuse. As we collectively struggle to properly diagnose the structural failures that have led to the current crisis of corporate impunity, I’m trying to work out whether or not it would be fair to understand corporate accountability in our justice system today as a club good, as opposed to a public good. If we can fairly characterize corporate accountability--holding corporations legally accountable for harms they’ve committed--as a club good, we can better expose the structural faults we collectively seek to repair.
Human rights and labor advocates often raise the possibility of using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (18 USC § 1962) (“RICO”) to sue companies who violate human rights overseas. At first glance, this seems like a great fit. The Act provides both civil and criminal liability for individuals and organizations, including corporations, engaging in a pattern of certain criminal acts (including murder, extortion, bribery and other crimes) that are often involved in human rights abuse cases. So why can’t foreign victims of torture, murder or crimes against humanity at the hands of U.S. companies operating abroad bring RICO suits for damages?