To the editor,
In a recent communique to constituents, “A Week in the Great Eight,” Rep. Pete Stauber begins with a hyperbolic and ridiculous untruth that “Democrats Dismiss Child Labor.” He awkwardly segways from his rejected transportation amendment to find Democrats are responsible for the child labor abuse taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo cobalt mining operations. Stauber’s opposition to child labor is admirable, using it as a reason for his advocacy of rare mineral mining in a sensitive Northern Minnesota watershed is ridiculous. Cobalt is the essential ingredient in phone and electric car batteries. Sixty to seventy percent of the world’s cobalt is mined in the DRC. Democrats believe in the importance of alternative fuels to reduce our carbon footprint and have a history of opposing child labor here and worldwide.
Child labor is a problem. It was estimated in 2017 there were 168,000,000 children working worldwide. The 40,000 children believed working as artisanal miners is minuscule compared to the 168,000,000 working around the world. Congolese children, however, are not forgotten. Many child advocacy groups are working to eliminate child labor by drawing awareness to the practice. Legal action against many of the major users and producers of cobalt is currently underway. One such advocacy group, The International Rights Advocates, targeted and filed suit against Glencore, the Swiss Metals Conglomerate for its role in existing Congo child labor violations. This is the same Glencore that owns Polymet, which Rep. Stauber suggests mine in the Babbitt-Hoyt Lakes area.
Yes, there is a worldwide child labor problem, but to suggest Democrats are dismissive of child labor is pure political poppycock and ignores labor history foundations. If Rep. Stauber is such a labor advocate he could help American workers break out of poverty by supporting a $15 minimum wage, universal health care, child daycare, and oppose union-busting right-to-work legislation.