Readout: Deputy Undersecretary Lee visits Democratic Republic of Congo, meets officials to discuss mining industry labor rights
WASHINGTON – In the first visit by a high-level U.S. Department of Labor official to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in nearly 20 years, Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for International Affairs Thea Lee met from Feb. 28 to March 2 with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi, other high-ranking officials and with union leaders, business executives, members of Parliament and others, to discuss strengthening and enforcing workers’ rights, especially in the minerals sector.
The group renewed their commitment to ensuring that mineral supply chains are free from labor abuses, including child labor, forced labor, and dangerous and unhealthy working conditions. Also discussed was the importance of enforcing workers’ rights, including freedom of association and collective bargaining, to promote decent work and sustainable livelihoods.
Deputy Undersecretary Lee reinforced the point that addressing workers’ rights abuses is essential to attracting foreign investment. At the Presidential Palace, the Deputy Undersecretary joined Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Claudine Ndusi M’Kembe in a signing ceremony to endorse a new technical assistance project supporting progress on labor standards. Lee also announced an additional $4 million in funding to promote meaningful actions to address child labor and forced labor in mining and provide training and resources.
“The U.S. Department of Labor’s visit demonstrated that the Biden-Harris administration has made transparency and accountability in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mineral supply chain a priority. The DRC’s commitment and partnership in combating some egregious abuses in mining, including child labor and forced labor, is appreciated,” said Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for International Affairs Thea Lee. “Workers here and abroad have a right to healthy, safe workplaces where they are paid fairly, and they can exercise their rights to unionize and bargain collectively.”