Some Things Cost More Than We Realize

radiohead

An excellent video from Radiohead for MTV’s EXIT campaign.

September in DC

Washington DC has made September its Human Trafficking Awareness Month thanks to efforts by the District of Columbia Task Force on Human Trafficking, which was established five years ago with the DC Police Department and the DC US Attorney’s Office.

September will highlight in an effort to educate the public about the Task Force’s main goals:

  • To facilitate a anti-trafficking efforts in the DC area through community outreach, proactive investigations, law enforcement training, intelligence sharing, and more formalized partnerships between law enforcement organizations and non-governmental organizations.
  • To identify citizen, resident and transnational victims of both sex and labor trafficking.
  • To provide comprehensive services to trafficking victims.
  • To increase the prosecution of traffickers.

Human Trafficking in Hair Salons

Laura Kenney writes about a recent case of moder-day slavery for the StyleList.

A West African immigrant has pleaded guilty to running a human trafficking operation that forced women to braid hair for up to 14 hours a day in Newark and East Orange NJ, reports the New Jersey Star Ledger.

In a case prosecutors equated to modern day slavery, Lassissi Afolabi, 46, told a judge he headed a ring that smuggled victims from villages in Ghana and Togo. He brought twenty women, age 10 to 19, to New Jersey, where he seized their passports, forbade them to learn English and make friends, and planted them in salons where they were forced to work up to 14 hours per day, 7 days a week.

FEATURED! Causecast

Causecast is the social network for social good.

“People want to do good, want to be inspired, and want to inspire others to join them in giving back,” the site says. “Causecast makes this easy by providing users with means to connect with people, leaders, charities, nonprofit organizations, and brands that inspire them.”

In How To Helo Human Trafficking, the Causecast blog gives the following suggestions:

  • Step One: Educate Yourself

    Human trafficking takes on many different forms, sometimes using new methods to disguise itself. The best way to begin to fight against human trafficking is to educate yourself about the problem’s complexities. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t understand it and you can’t spread the word if you can’t explain it.

  • Step Two: Spread the Word

    While it’s really important to understand about all the different types of human trafficking, it’s easier to make a tangible difference when you focus on one specific aspect of the problem at a time.

  • Step Three: Dollah Dollah Bills, Ya’ll

    Of course, money is always an integral part of campaigning for any cause, and human trafficking is no exception.

  • Step Four: Time to Act

    Giving money is great, but it’s only a part of the solution. Check out the Polaris Project Action Center for some hands-on ways you can help. For example, Polaris is pushing Congress to allocate federal funding for human trafficking victims. Call your senators and representatives to let them know how you feel about this issue.

  • Step Five: Keep It Up!

    Remember, technology is your friend. Even the most dedicated of us can’t always keep up with our causes 24/7. So sometimes, it’s a good idea to bring the cause to you.

Speak Up to Stop Unfair Trade

Leo W. Gerard, the president of the United Steelworkers International has a piece on the HuffPo:

In this struggle, it is crucial to understand that so-called free trade isn’t some lofty capitalist ideal. The U.S. engages in “free trade” with the Chinese because they hold $1 trillion in debt over our heads, an obligation they know we can’t pay. We shrink in fear of them. They’re world class bullies. They can do whatever they please. And they do. They violate international trade laws by which we abide. That’s why their stuff is so cheap. The one factor on which the price difference always is blamed — labor costs — is only the tiniest fraction of it.

Labor violations are part of the cheating. The National Labor Committee and others, including reporters from the New York Times, have documented exploitation of Chinese workers that can only be described as modern slavery. We stand in solidarity with these workers and condemn these atrocities that include very young teenagers kept in locked buildings with caged windows where they are forced to labor 14-hour shifts under grueling conditions, but find it impossible to make money or to amass the “exit fee” required to leave. They include children, women, and occasionally men kidnapped and forced to work in brick kilns, coal mines, and sweatshops in the Chinese hinterlands, with no payment other than gruel and a sleeping mat. When Chinese companies treat humans this way, they realize a competitive advantage over American firms that routinely obey humanitarian laws.

China is also one of the most dangerous places in the world to work and live because corporations fail to provide safety equipment for workers, such as dust control devices, and refuse to protect the environment with pollution control equipment. Both practices are profitable for Chinese corporations, particularly when competing with U.S. firms, which must abide by environmental and worker health and safety regulations.

Much more significant, however, are other deliberate Chinese interventions in the market, such as the undervaluation of its currency, subsidization of its manufacturing, counterfeiting, forced transfer of American technology, and refusal to give American companies access to Chinese markets with licensing restrictions, complex regulations and local content rules.

China gives breaks to manufacturers on land, rent, energy and water. Manufacturers may receive bank “loans” they know they’re not required to repay. China also exempts certain industries from income taxes and gives tax rebates on exports.

China’s deliberate currency undervaluation works as a subsidy as well. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission explains it this way: “China’s undervalued currency encourages undervalued Chinese exports to the U.S. and discourages U.S. exports because U.S. exports are artificially overvalued. As a result, undervalued Chinese exports have been highly disruptive to the U.S.”

China cheats. Free trade is a myth. The American worker doesn’t need special treatment. We’re the most productive in the world. We just seek fair competition. We want fair trade. The USW wants trade rules enforced.

There Is A List of Goods That Use Slave Labor–But Where Is It?

Cassandra Clifford with the World Affairs Blog Network has an important call to action for people who are looking to take a stand against modern-day slavery and trafficking in their every day lives. Everything that we consume comes from somewhere, and opting for products that are fair-trade and slavery-free goes a long way in relaying the message to companies that we don’t want to support slavery.

This can be daunting–how can you, going about your own life, take time to ask and research where everything comes from? Imagine there was a list that let you know the products that were made using slave labor, wouldn’t that be easier? It would. The funny thing is: there is a list. It just hasn’t been released.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) was revised by Congress in 2005, at which time it was mandated that the Department of Labor (DOL) establish a list of products which where made by various forms of human trafficking/modern slavery, including child labor.

However when the TVPRA was reauthorized again in 2008, the list has still to find its way into any consumers hands, despite increasing consumer and political awareness and activism. The need to release this crucial list was brought back into the public spotlight with the efforts of Ambassador Mark P. Lagon, who is the Executive Director of Polaris Project, and previous Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State.Ambassador Lagon recently published an article for Change.org, Where’s the List of Slave-Made Goods the Department of Labor Promised?

The Department of Labor, under the leadership of Secretary Elaine Chao until last January, said the requirement was an unfunded mandate – as they didn’t have enough people to put on the task absent any extra funding from Congress.

Congress unwisely put no deadline on the mandate in the 2005 legislation, then gave the Department a luxurious one year to produce it with the enactment of the latest December 2008 revision of the landmark 2000 anti-slavery act.

But the list exists. While I was still the anti-trafficking ambassador, a public hearing had been held for information and a draft list was fashioned.

So what can be done to see that this list finally makes it’s way into our hands as consumers, and concerned citizens? E-mail the new Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis to release the list and correct the errors of the past four years, demand that the American consumer is both educated and empowered, that we have a right and choice to be purchase goods which are no longer contaminated by child and slave labor, that we want a true “free” marketplace.

You can sign the petition here.

249 Mile Run in Chains for For Human Trafficking Awareness

Today in British Columbia, singer Eric Proffitt began his 249 mile run from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to the Statue of Liberty in New York City to bring awareness to human trafficking. Proffitt is doing this in chains to illustrate the bonds of silence under which many suffer in our world today.

He is joined by Rev. Marcia L. Dyson, Georgetown University Center for Social Justice, who recently ended a 22-day fast for Darfur, Haiti and for awareness of the gun violence in her home town of Chicago; Theresa Flores, who as a teenager was forced into a relationship of sexual prostitution by an older boy at her school and who now works to help rescue others victimized by human trafficking.

Proffitt is also joined by Ken Morris, the great, grandson of slave abolitionist, Frederick Douglass and educator, Booker T. Washington. Ken gave up his marketing business in Las Vegas to partner the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation on this global human crisis that is human trafficking.

Members of the organizations, Innocents at Risk, which spear-headed Trafficking of Persons (TIP) awareness among flight attendants and The Sanctuary of Moses, which houses, feeds, and educates child victims of trafficking in Benin, as well as several United States congressmen, are in attendance at the Lincoln Memorial kick-off.

This run, called “Run 4 The Rescue” will help raise money and to bring attention to human trafficking and slavery.

This grassroots campaign is spreading like wild-fire across the nation and will reach an apex on September 27, 2009, with the flagship Stop Child Trafficking Wake-Rescue a Child with Your Sole in New York City and simultaneous events in 40 cities nationwide. Individuals and teams across the country will walk to raise money for this cause.

The Run 4 The Rescue will continue with Eric Proffitt tracking an additional 250 miles in the United Kingdom, where slavery was first abolished by colonists.

Learn more or get involved at Run4TheRescue.com