Many Top Federal Contractors Have Human Rights Violations

Last week marked the 67th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In commemoration, President Obama proclaimed December 10, 2015, as Human Rights Day and December 10–17 as Human Rights Week.

We bring this up to remind you that the federal government contracts with companies that were alleged or found to have violated various basic human rights and freedoms. You can find some of these companies in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.

For example, Royal Dutch Shell paid $15.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the company was complicit in the brutal excesses of Nigeria’s military government during the 1990s. Private prison company Management and Training Corporation paid $8 million to settle claims that thousands of inmates at a New Mexico jail managed by the company were illegally strip-searched. The company formerly known as Blackwater has six instances in our database involving the use of deadly force in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our database also contains hundreds of instances involving discrimination and unfair or abusive labor practices.

The best way to find these instances is to use the misconduct filter tool on the “All Misconduct” page. Selecting “Human Rights” in the misconduct type pulldown menu will catch instances of private prison mismanagement and abuses perpetrated or abetted by private security firms and multinational corporations. The “Labor” filter will bring up instances involving worker discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and violations of wage, hour, and workplace safety laws.

You can also focus your inquiry by doing a keyword search for such terms as “genocide,” “human trafficking,” “torture,” and “discrimination.” The search window appears throughout the database at the top of the screen.

Our database is a stark reminder that the U.S. government’s spending habits have enormous impact on the rights and freedoms of people in every corner of the globe. That’s why we’re glad President Obama’s proclamation is not just empty words—it follows a series of executive orders, aimed at contractors’ labor practices, that will improve working conditions for millions of people at some of the largest companies in the world.