Category Archives: income inequality

Recession to Increase Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which was released yesterday, says the global economic crisis is boosting the demand for human trafficking because of a growing demand for cheap goods and services. It cites the International Labor Organization, which estimates that at least 12.3 million adults and children are victims of forced labor, bonded labor and sex slavery each year.

“A striking global demand for labor and a growing supply of workers willing to take ever greater risks for economic opportunities seem a recipe for increased forced labor cases of migrant workers and women in prostitution,” it says.

It predicts that the economic crisis will push more businesses underground to avoid taxes and unionized labor, which will increase the use of forced, cheap and child labor by cash-strapped multinational companies.

The report surveys the efforts of 175 countries in their fight against trafficking and slavery. The countries are then ranked, and negligent countries face sanctions by the United States. The United States, however, is not ranked among them. This year, however, the Justice Department did issue a report on efforts to combat trafficking efforts in the United States. According to the report, in 2008 the FBI opened 132 trafficking investigations, made 139 arrests and obtained 94 convictions.

Next year, the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report will rank the efforts of the United States to combat slavery and trafficking within its own borders.

Information from CNN. Read the article here.

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Hidden in Plain Sight

At U.S. Catholic.org, Kevin Clarke recounts the story of Lucy, a young Kenyan woman trapped in a quiet upper-class New York hamlet, where she was forced to work as a house-servant. Clarke writes:

There are thousands of people like Lucy, held against their will, in the United States today. You may have passed them on the street, begging for small change, watched one working in a neighbor’s yard or behind a kitchen door, or passed one cleaning a room in a four-star hotel. Some have helped put food on your table or sewn the clothes you wear. A large number of them are trapped deeply underground but still, like their brothers and sisters, in plain sight behind the black-filtered facades of massage parlors and strip joints.

They are the community of America’s enslaved people, trafficked sometimes legally, most often clandestinely across the U.S. border. They are held by force and violence or by the cruelest forms of psychological coercion and persuasion by individuals or by organized crime networks that reach all the way back to the homelands of the trafficked in Africa, Mexico, Central America, Central Europe, and Southeast Asia.

… “We’ve had domestic laborers, sex workers, restaurant workers, victims who have worked in construction,” says Sehla Ashai, an Illinois-based legal advocate for trafficking victims. “We’ve had people in just about every low-paying service industry job.”

“Trafficking victims can be found in all walks of life. They’re not going to be found in some dark alley,” says Nyssa Mestas, associate director of anti-trafficking services at the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Department of Migration and Refugee Services. “You’ll find them working in nice homes or even for legitimate businesses.”

… Some trafficked laborers end up working for big agricultural processors well known to consumers, but their abuse is distanced from respectable food companies by a kind of bureaucratic plausible deniability.

“We had [traffickers] harvesting for two big citrus processors that put the orange juice on your table,” says Brigitte Gynther, a member of Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida working with the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW).

“You often wonder how [growers] never seem to realize this is going on,” says Gynther, “but the citrus and tomato growers all use contractors. The workers never see the owners; there is a whole system in place of non-responsibility. . . . These guys are kept on isolated labor camps; nobody knows where they are.”

Read the entire piece here.

USF Fights Human Trafficking

Co-anchor of ABC7 News Cheryl Jennings reported about a University of San Francisco student group fighting against human trafficking.

Their group, part of the Erasmus program at USF, which focuses student groups on an annual social justice project, recently went to visit Thailand where they say for themselves the impact that being trafficked has on children.

“I think what really touched me was their parents a lot of times are their traffickers,” said USF’s Carlie Kralj. “There were kids whose parents were having them sell opium on the streets.”

They met children at an orphanage built by the Not For Sale campaign, created by USF professor David Batstone.

“What we’ve found, and this is what students go through, is a sense of compassion for one child, to then understanding that child’s family has been dragged into this injustice. How do I change it? I have to create a legal system and an economic system that actually gives them access to a democratic and just way of living,” Batstone told ABC7.

Read the whole report here or visit the Not For Sale Campaign.

Crucifix Sweatshops

This is one that perhaps slipped through the cracks during the Christmas season, via the Seattle Times, to be filed under, “Surprise, Surprise, Chapter MXCVVLXX”:

A labor-rights group alleged Tuesday that crucifixes sold in religious gift shops in the United States are produced under “horrific” conditions in a Chinese factory with more than 15-hour workdays and inadequate food. Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee, held a news conference to call attention to conditions at a factory in Dongguan, a southern Chinese city near Hong Kong, where he said crosses sold at historic New York churches and elsewhere are made.

Spokespeople for St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Episcopal Trinity Church said the churches had removed dozens of crucifixes from their shops while they investigate the claims. While none of the crucifixes sold in New York were identified as made in China, they bore serial numbers matching products made at the factory in question, Kernaghan said.

St. Patrick’s and Trinity bought the crosses from Singer, a religious-goods company in Mount Vernon. Co-owner Gerald Singer said the objects were purchased through a Chinese manufacturer, Full Start.

“Whether they came out of a sweatshop, we do not know,” Singer said.

A man at the Full Start factory in Dongguan said the allegations were “totally incorrect.”

Listen to an interview with Charles Kernaghan at Democracy Now!

In brief

As I go around speaking about my book, I sort of wish I’d written a simpler book. The book itself is very clear, but speaking clearly about it-–for me–is sort of impossible. I can spell it out in print, but it’s excruciatingly hard to do so verbally.

Here’s what I keep trying to say: There’s a link between growing wealth inequality and the degradation of democracy. There’s a link between the degradation of democracy and slavery. Finally, to complete this cycle, there’s a further link: follow slavery and you’ll find it leads to growing inequality.

We human beings have a psychological/mental/spiritual design flaw that makes it very difficult for us to see how this works. If we’re enslaved, we don’t get an education, so we don’t see it. But even if we’re educated, it’s very hard for us to see that benefiting from enslaved, or even abused workers, ultimately endangers our own freedom.

My book is an attempt to get regular people, rich, poor, left, right, to see how this all works.

Eroding GOP Support for Free Trade

A recent Wall Street Journal-NBC poll shows Republican voters would support a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports–another sign of growing American resistance to globalization.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal John Hardwood writes about the shift: “slipping support among Republicans represents a fresh warning sign for free-market conservatives and American companies such as manufacturers and financial firms that benefit from markets opening abroad.”

In a December 1999 Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, 31 percent of Republicans said free trade had hurt the economy. In 2007, 59 percent agree foreign trade has hurt the economy.

As Matthew Hennessey points out in Fairer Globalization, this resonates with recent report about globalization’s resulting income inequality and the rising protectionism in the United States by of Kenneth F. Scheve, Professor of Political Science at Yale University, and Matthew J. Slaughter, Professor of Economics at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Business and Globalization at the Council on Foreign Relations:

Globalization has brought huge overall benefits, but earnings for most U.S. workers–even those with college degrees–have been falling recently; inequality is greater now than at any other time in the last 70 years. Whatever the cause, the result has been a surge in protectionism. To save globalization, policymakers must spread its gains more widely. The best way to do that is by… instituting a New Deal for globalization–one that links engagement with the world economy to a substantial redistribution of income. In the United States, that would mean adopting a fundamentally more progressive federal tax system. The notion of more aggressively redistributing income may sound radical, but ensuring that most American workers are benefiting is the best way of saving globalization from a protectionist backlash.

Read the entire article at Foreign Affairs.

The World on Globalization

A new survey by Pew Research Center of over 45,000 people shows that while many countries in the world embrace the tenets of free markets and free trade, but they’re also very concerned about inequality, as well as the threats that globalization and immigration pose to their culture, national identity, way of life and the environment.

“Together, these results reveal an evolving world view on globalization that is nuanced, ambivalent, and sometimes inherently contradictory.” The report reads.

The study also shows that enthusiasm for globalization has faded in America and Western Europe since 2002, though it continues with fervor in developing Asian countries such as China and India.

“A rare glimmer of hope for the development-through-trade crowd?” asks Matthew Hennessey at Fairer Globalization. “Or do the findings suggest that globalization’s winners are looking to close the door behind them?”

View complete report here.