Human trafficking news used to be all about human sex trafficking, but today we are learning that more and more commercial farms, restaurants, bars, and food trucks are trafficking humans for labor. Human trafficking for labor didn’t just start to happen, however. For a long time its victims have taken a backseat to victims of human sex trafficking. So, while law enforcement was looking in the sex trafficking direction, labor traffickers were able to build their empires on the backs of underpaid, mentally and emotionally abused, immigrants. These immigrants are smuggled into the United States and promised fair pay, piece-rate compensation, housing, and freedom.
Little to their knowledge, they are being manipulated into coming to the U.S, only to be taken advantage of and then blackmailed by traffickers until their “debt” is paid off. Their families are threatened, as well as their lives and their ability to stay in the United States. Unfair deductions come out of their paychecks (if they even get one), and they are housed in cramped and pitiful conditions. Many do not speak any English, so they cannot ask for help or even give signs to customers that they are in trouble. Nail salons, commercial farms, and commercial restaurants are some of the larger perpetrators, but even with this information, law enforcement cannot prove labor trafficking as easily as they can prove sex trafficking and that only helps keep what is happening, quiet.
Human trafficking for labor is not reported as often as human trafficking for sex, and even when it is, it’s not prosecuted as swiftly and justly as sex trafficking. Experts believe this is because when a civilian hears of sex trafficking, they think of children and terrible circumstances surrounding forced sex. What society doesn’t realize about trafficking for labor is that children are also being smuggled into the U.S for labor, and forced to pay back “debts”. In 2014, eight minors were rescued in a raid on a trailer park and they were found to be contracted by a third party to one of the largest egg farmers in the country (PBS). Civilians might also be more easily able to identify a victim of sex trafficking, than identifying a victim of labor trafficking. The victims of labor trafficking are people you wouldn’t expect to be victims. Waitresses at your favorite Chinese restaurant who can only smile and ask what kind of soda you want, or the women who do your nails at the salon each week and only know enough English to take basic instruction on how you want your nails done, or the fry cook at the local food truck who you never speak directly to. To the untrained eye, these people would seem like they belong here, and some of them do. Some of them are choosing to be in America and are being paid fairly. Sadly though, until we know more and can distinguish how to properly tell the willing from the unwilling, human trafficking for labor will remain a social problem in need of experts to study it, and then teach our law enforcement how to attack it.
At Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we fight for Americans workers and civilians who have been taken advantage of by large corporations and need an extra leg to stand on. In California, victims of human trafficking have rights and they are protected, regardless of what their bosses will say to them to keep them quiet. If you know of someone, or you are someone who is in need of legal help in relation to employment, fraud, or class action suits please contact us.