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Special Report: Modern-Day Slavery

2014 Update

2014 Dec. 11: Pope Francis tells shoppers: Don�t buy products made by modern-day slaves

"As the January sales season nears in the West, Pope Francis will call on shoppers not to buy products which may have been made by modern-day slaves � whatever the savings."

2014 November 17 Common Dreams: 35.8 Million Worldwide Living in Modern-Day Slavery

2014 Forced Labour in Northern Ireland A 2014 June report found some "positive movements" in recognition of forced labor and introduction of legislation since a 2011 report, but argues there is still a need to separate the issues of forced labor and human trafficking in order to address "exploitative employment practices" apart from criminal justice issues.

Employment sectors where exploitation was found or suspected included fruit-picking, fishing, shellfish gathering, recyling, domestic servitude, cannabis cultivation, and prostitution.

" The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) noted that, as of 21 January 2014, there have been no cases in Northern Ireland taken forward under Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act, which deals with slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, since the Act was introduced in 2009."

Several factors made it "difficult to identify many clear cases of forced labour in Northern Ireland." Some workers reportedly were trafficked across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, making regulation more difficult. Some considered themselves better off than back home and may therefore have been willing to tolerate diffcult conditions. Some were afraid of prosecution for working in illegal industries. "However, they noted a diverse range of examples of exploitation that raised concerns among people working in statutory agencies and the voluntary sector, and these appear to have occurred in a wider range of employment sectors than had been identified in the 2011 ICR report."

Adding to the difficulty in identifying and dealing with forced labor is the fragmented nature of the regulatory system for employment practices. The various agencies have differing authority to investigate, information-sharing is lacking, and illegal or informal workers, especially migrants, can slip through the cracks.

U.S. State Dept. 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report

U.S. State Department: 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. Includes descriptions of situations in many countries, recommendations for remediation, and personal stories of victims, many of them children.

U.S. State Department: The Intersection Between Environmental Degradation and Human Trafficking. "Certain industries face particularly high environmental risks, including agriculture, fishing and aquaculture, logging, and mining. Workers in these sectors also face risks; the use of forced labor has been documented along the supply chains of many commercial sectors." Examples of human trafficking in each of the above industries in various countries, including the U.S., are given.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program: New York Times says Coalition of Immokalee Workers has succeeded in getting major companies to sign on to the Fair Food Program that greatly improves the lives of tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida. Included are McDonald�s, Yum Brands (owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC), Burger King, Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe�s, Chipotle and Subway. It has been a long, hard fight, but persistence has paid off.

Truthout.org, in an article "Fighting for Farm Workers at Our Dinner Table", says "Wendy's, along with most major supermarket chains, have refused to speak with the CIW." Participating buyers and growers that partner with the Fair Food Program are listed on the Program's website; check back periodically to keep up-to-date.

2013 Updates

2013 Dec 10: Special Report: Chocolate. Fair Trade vs. Child Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.

2013 Oct. 17: National Public Radio says the Walk Free Foundation 2013 report on slavery counts 30 million slaves worldwide.

2012 update

2012 Oct. 3: good news! Green America reports that Hershey Co. "will be certifying 100 percent of its cocoa by 2020 and urged the chocolate giant to go 100 percent Fair Trade with incremental benchmarks." Eight years is a long time in the life of a slave and we need to keep up the pressure, but this is a start.

About Modern-Day Slavery, including in the United States of America

Slavery is no longer legal in any country, but according to the September 2003 National Geographic, there are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, about 150,000 of them in the U.S. In 2011 President Obama recognized this "global travesty" in a Proclamation of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

The chocolate industry is notorious for having supply chains that use child slaves to harvest cocoa beans. For a clear description of the situation, see Green America's October 2010 report. The report sums it up best: "African children shouldn't have to suffer unspeakable horrors so that our children can have a happy Halloween". The only way to ensure that buying chocolate is not contributing to the enslavement of children is to buy only certified Fairtrade chocolate.

In August of 2010, Truthout reported that some Florida tomato growers used slaves to harvest their tomatoes. These were not people who worked in sweatshops for poverty wages. These were people who were literally forced to work for others and treated as property. They were often obtained so cheaply they were considered disposable, without basic physical protections the expensive chattel slaves of the ante-bellum American South had. In 2014, however, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers had greatly improved the conditions under which tomato pickers worked: see New York Times article

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A historical view: Unitarian Universalists and slavery.

Removing slavery from supply lines: trickle-down business that works

For information on this video, visit vimeo.com.

What responsible consumers can do to help

Buy products that are certified Fairtrade.

Spread the word. Dr. Kevin Bales, writing for the National Geographic, says "We all know about the United Nations weapons inspectors, who enforce the Conventions against Weapons of Mass Destruction, but where are the United Nations Slavery Inspectors? When the same effort is put behind searching out and ending slavery, there will be rapid change." Dr. Bales also notes that "In South Asia whole villages come to freedom when others help them form institutions such as small credit unions, inform them of their rights, and show them how to organize to fight for them. Slaves everywhere outnumber their masters. When we all stand with the slaves, their masters cannot keep them in bondage."

Visit the website of Dr. Kevin Bales's organization, Free The Slaves, to see what you can do to make things better.

Pressure supermarkets Publix, Stop & Shop, Giant, Kroger, Quiznos, and Walmart to sign Fair Food agreements with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to buy tomatoes only from growers that do not use slaves and provide decent working conditions for pickers. 2012 October update: Trader Joe's signed the Fair Food agreement in February and Chipotle signed in October.

Work to pass legislation. California has passed the "California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010" law.

National Geographic says "to report trafficking crimes to the U.S. Department of Justice, or to get help, call its toll-free hotline at 1-888-428-7851."

Links to Information on Modern-Day Slavery

Following are links collected by ResponsibleConsumer.net for further research. If you have comments or suggestions for other links, please email admin [at] responsibleconsumer.net with Slavery in the Subject line.

Fight Slavery Now

iAbolish

CNN's The Freedom Project.

Chocolate Scorecard

Article in The Guardian about Passover, Jewish history, and modern-day slavery.

Anti-Slavery International

Responsible Cocoa and the Harkin-Engel Protocol.

Slave Free Chocolate

U.S. Department of Labor's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor

Recent News

Google search: "modern slavery"

Google search: "slavery today"

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