Sex trafficking is alive and well. This isn’t a shocking statement. Even in America, we accept that such industries exist and even thrive. It’s horrifying. Nevertheless, it’s easy enough to make sure you aren’t personally supporting such a thing.
But what about labor trafficking? This is when people are forced to engage in labor practices that are typically inhumanely taxing. What if the labor used to serve or make your meal, harvest your food, or produce your dairy were also the result of modern-day slavery?
This might be a little more likely than we’d like to think. It’s impossible to overstate the reach of these activities. Even in America, it’s insanely easy to indirectly incentivize the misery of those on the hamster wheel of indentured servitude.
Surprisingly, labor trafficking may actually be more prevalent than trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. If you’ve been involved first hand, you don’t need to be told this.
However, here’s something to think about. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that while 64% of trafficking victims are exploited for labor purposes, only 19% being sexually exploited.
How Traffickers Operate
How is this possible?
Victims are tempted with promising jobs that end up being significantly more taxing and less profitable than expected. They also tend to be young adults, making them even more vulnerable.
They work cruelly long hours and languish in unbelievably cramped living quarters. They are often indebted to their traffickers, forced to pay rent for living spaces that are hardly livable.
Contrary to what’s typically believed, victims can hail from all parts of the world, not simply lesser developed countries. In fact, 1/3rd of victims actually come from the United States! Other common home regions include Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
They’ve been coerced both physically and psychologically. They often spend their days around upstanding citizens that would certainly alert authorities if they only knew something was amiss.
It can be hard to imagine such crimes could take place in such plain view, but they do. Labor trafficking is big business. It’s also a global problem. In America, Polaris estimates that it spans twenty-five industries, with each requiring separate and unique action.
It’s even found in high-end, reputable establishments.
It might seem impossible to hide such a significant crime, but it isn’t. With the incentive of $150 billion a year, traffickers go to great lengths to conceal their misdeeds.
Along the way, victims have often lost their identity, families, passports, and money. They likely do not speak the predominant language of their host country. It’s possible they don’t even know who their traffickers are.
Victims work in a wide swath of diverse industries. They may work in hotels, restaurants, factories, landscaping, and forestry. They may also be used in carnivals, food trucks, janitorial services, buffets, golf courses, swimming pools, amusement parks, construction sites, the health and beauty industry, pornography, and prostitution.
It’s not as simple as refusing to directly support these industries. This is because the U.S. Department of Labor says that “148 goods from 76 countries” are the result of either forced or child labor.
The ILO estimates that trafficking currently claims 24.9 million victims. Are you one of them?
You Are Owed a Fair Wage!
An individual makes piece-rate pay when they’re paid according to however many tasks they complete. For example, someone might be paid according to however many pieces of fruit they pick or however many cars they service.
Those paid piece-rate pay can be especially vulnerable to trafficking. Their unique pay necessitates unique laws that may be purposely circumvented or ignored by traffickers.
Nonetheless, these employees are still owed a fair wage. In California specifically, employees are also entitled to be paid for rest time. This is the period between completing paid-for tasks.
Individuals also must still be paid according to the minimum wage. This means that if they do not make minimum wage for the number of hours they’ve worked, an employer must pay the difference to ensure they do.
At Aiman-Smith & Marcy, we understand the nuances of labor fraud cases. We hate unethical business practices as much as we love securing justice for those that are taken advantage of by their employers. If this piece reminds you of you or someone you know or love, we urge you to give us a call. We are a boutique law firm with the attention to detail to ensure your case will be handled professionally and passionately. Give us a call. We’re eager to fight on your behalf.