Labor trafficking globally and domestically

BY MELINDA SAMPSON

Human trafficking includes more than commercial sex exploitation

 Human trafficking also includes labor trafficking, and the victims of that form of trafficking are on a wide spectrum.

These victims are women.

These victims are children.

These victims are men.

Labor trafficking is certainly a global enterprise, from the growing of cocoa, coffee beans and tobacco to the making of bricks and shoes.

But it is also a domestic problem that is largely overlooked by people in their day-to-day lives. In large part, because many people don’t know what labor trafficking is or how to identify someone who is being oppressed for profit.

WHAT IS LABOR TRAFFICKING? 

Labor trafficking is compelling someone to work using force, fraud or coercion.

How people are forced to work in various industries begins with a trafficker selling a false promise of prosperity. A labor trafficking victim is lured into victimization by being promised a good job with high wages – in some cases victims are vulnerable to this promise because of the impoverished conditions in which they live or their families live.

Preying on that need to provide and survive is often paramount in recruiting victims.

The reality of the work is not what is promised. It includes long hours with no pay – or a significantly low paycheck because of debts imposed by the trafficker.

Once the victim has decided to leave, the aggressive nature of the trafficker will shine through with threats of harm to their family, confiscation of documentation and physical abuse.

IS LABOR TRAFFICKING OCCURING IN EASTERN N.C.? 

Many people don’t realize that labor trafficking is an issue in North Carolina.

As the agriculture industry is the economic engine and a part of so many lives in North Carolina, it is common place to see migrant farmworkers in the fields putting in tobacco, digging sweet potatoes and harvesting corn and soy beans.

But as we drive by those workers in the hot fields, we don’t recognize that some of them could be working against their will.

Not all agricultural work uses forced labor in North Carolina – that is certainly not what I am saying at all.

However, because of the nature of the H2A guest worker visa program 

the labor contractor (who is not the farmer usually) holds all the power over the workers.

The H2A guest worker program is an avenue for farmworkers from other countries to come to the United States and become laborers on U.S. farms.

In the H2A program, that contractor is the only person the farmworker can be employed under, so if the contractor uses exploitative practices and forms of violence and coercion, the victim feels like he/she is left with no recourse.

The victim likely does not know that this guest worker program includes regulations – such as wage requirements and safe housing requirements – and therefore is reticent to seek relief through filing a complaint. If the contractor is using forms of coercion and force, they may be too frightened.

Should they jump the visa, then they become undocumented in the United States, which is a scary position to be in, currently. That undocumented status makes them further vulnerable to victimization and trafficking.

 

NOT JUST IN AGRICULTURE 

I don’t want you to believe that labor trafficking only occurs in agriculture. As a matter of fact, many industries use trafficked people – from nail salons to restaurants  to construction to domestic work.

Labor trafficking is a way to gain a bigger profit margin.

On a global scale, the use of forced labor and forced child labor is astounding, and we use the products that are being made off the backs of victims every day.

According to the “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor” report released by the United States Department of labor, on a global scale, the top 10 industries that use forced labor are:

1.       Cotton

2.       Sugar Cane

3.       Tobacco

4.       Coffee

5.       Cattle

6.       Fish

7.       Rice

8.       Cocoa

9.       Bricks

10.   Garments

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

To curb the demand for forced labor, you can buy fair trade products. The fair-trade certification  guarantees that products are made without forced-labor, child labor and for fair wages.

If the demand for products made by exploitation goes down, then exploitation will be decreased. It a simple matter of supply and demand.

You can also know the companies that use forced labor or refuse to ensure a non-abusive supply chain and then show no support for them. Do not buy their products, write to them and tell them you aren’t supporting them until they support freedom and fairness for all.

Download the DoneGood app, and it can tailor your needs to the most ethical product vendors.

There are so many ways you can make a difference, and changing a few shopping habits is one of them.

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