SEATTLE — The average American considers modern day slavery a tainted concept only present in developing countries. However, a recent study by the NGO Verite showed that slavery is globalized, not isolated. Many modern products, from computers to shrimp to clothing, have a good chance of having been touched by forced labor.
Awareness regarding the global trade of human trafficking has increased as the cause has been taken up by various celebrities. Awareness is valuable when combatting any type of human rights abuse. However, as long as forced labor is considered an economic choice for subcontractors within their supply chains, modern day slavery will never end.
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Maria Grazia Giammarinaro spoke to the Human Rights Council recently stating, “Guaranteeing a voice for workers is of critical importance, and when independent auditors are involved, it is crucial that they have the resources they need to gather workers’ feedback and the skills to spot high-risk practices which make it possible for trafficking to take place.”
Giammarinaro highlighted multiple initiatives which could help reduce current human trafficking, while preventing future trafficking worldwide. On the financial side, labeling of companies to illustrate the degree in which they are complying with standards. This labeling allows consumers to choose companies and products based on not only their effectiveness but also their clean record of human trafficking and human rights abuses.
Consumers should not be the only ones holding companies accountable. State laws, international laws and federal laws must all be clear, cohesive and strict on this subject. Currently, sex trafficking is the center of focus, but many of the laws could easily be adjusted to cover labor trafficking as well. University of Michigan Law School trafficking expert Bridgette Carr led a group of legislators, including State Senator Judy Emmons, in securing the adoption of 22 provisions toughening existing laws against sex trafficking.
Internationally, in 2013, law-reform advocates approved the Uniform Law Commission Model Human Trafficking Law. Advocates of international negotiations also proposed U.N. treaty negotiations to increase the responsibility of businesses to remedy of human rights violations.
Despite the uphill battle of stopping human trafficking and forced labor, there is some positivity. Some corporations have begun to demonstrate good corporate citizenship regarding human rights, including the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking. This initiative can become much more effective and act as a monitoring body rather than simply philanthropic as it develops further.
According to the American Bar Association, “Some of those same corporations are signatories to the Luxor Implementation Guidelines to the Athens Ethical Principles, including the Gap, the Body Shop, Microsoft and Manpower. Microsoft and Manpower are members of End Human Trafficking Now.”
More than any board of directors or president, the consumer has the loudest voice when speaking to a corporation. Consumers must buy items with a human rights perspectives. Human trafficking and tainted objects are only a credit card swipe away.
– Danielle Preskitt