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New Mexico state treasurer pauses investments in companies with alleged child labor in supply chains

Zack McCarthy via CC

State Treasurer Laura Montoya joined several other state treasurers and stakeholders in calling for an end to migrant child labor after the New York Times alleged several large companies use such illegal labor in their supply chain. She has also paused state investments in the companies.

Montoya co-signed a letter with state treasurers from six states along with the New York City Comptroller and others, asking eight companies with ties to suppliers alleged to employ child labor to identify the steps they are taking to address the issue.

New Mexico currently invests in three companies accused of having illegal child labor in their supply chain by the co-signed letter–PepsiCo, Amazon and Walmart. Montoya put them on a Caution List, meaning the state is holding off on new investments.

"From a humanistic perspective, everybody needs to realize that could be any one of our children," she said. "And it should never be okay for us to use children's vulnerabilities or life circumstances for profit and gain."

She asked to meet with each before she makes a decision about next steps. All three companies have responded, and only PepsiCo has met with her so far. PepsiCo and Walmart told the Business and Human Rights Resource Center that they are investigating the allegations.

Montoya added that while a small state like New Mexico might not be a large enough investor to push a company to change, the collaboration with state treasurers from New York, Massachusetts, Oregon and others could give the move more weight.

But some think leaders like Montoya haven’t gone far enough.

Chavi Keeney Nana is the director of the Equitable Global Supply Chain Program at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which coordinates shareholder advocacy efforts similar to the state treasurers’ letter and has had success securing workers’ rights.

"It should be happening way more than it is," she said. "And frankly it should be happening from the federal government at a far greater rate than it is happening right now."

She also said federal and state governments should address child labor in supply chains beyond the U.S. borders as well.

"It can be a complicated process to do but we can and should do hard things," Keeney Nana said.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Megan Myscofski was a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.