Fair Labor Bloomington Series: Students Reflect on Anti-Trafficking Approaches

Students in Dr. Stepanka Korytova’s I300 course Global Human Trafficking engage with a range of sources of trafficking prevention and advocacy. They are learning to critique the approaches taken by authors and guest speakers, asking questions such as: Are trafficked persons “victims” or “survivors”? Is sex work a legitimate profession or a form of exploitation? How can we distinguish between migration, smuggling, trafficking, and unfair labor practices?

During the Fall 2014 semester, guest lecturers have included Detective Jon Daggy, head of anti-trafficking operations with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police and Ms. Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, Chief Policy Advisor with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General. Both are leading members of IPATH, Indiana’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force. Below, students respond to these speakers and to required course reading Sex at the Margins (Zed Books, 2007) by anthropologist Dr. Laura Agustín.

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Sophomore WHO says:

When thinking of issues of human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, one certainly does not assume that the matter is happening right in their backyard of Indiana… Jon Daggy, who works as an undercover cop throughout the state of Indiana, seems to have a more personal and hands on experience with this growing problem. Stating stories of confronting and working to help young prostitutes get off the streets, he illustrates himself as a harsh yet caring character that can be comparable to Mr. T on the hit television show Law and Order: SVU.  Straight forward and at times profane, Daggy shows how one solves the issue of sex trafficking in Indiana personally on the front lines rather than behind a desk.

Sophomore WHO says:

Laura Augustin’s main argument… is the fact that the word “trafficked” does not correctly define the lives of migrants and that the rescue business that is looking to save these “victims” is potentially disempowering them. This is an interesting contrast to the speakers, such as Ms. Kuzman… they have worked firsthand with victims of human trafficking, and to me it seems like they are in fact empowering the people that they help get out of the corrupt business.

And Khun Naung notes:

…Abigail Kuzma, Chief Counsel of Consumer Protection, said human smuggling and trafficking are hard to distinguish; however, victims’ labor was exploited and some became the victims of sex traffickers. Mr. Jon Daggy, an undercover detective, said economics is a key factor… school drop-outs could [also] end up in the sex industries and be exploited.

Fair Labor Bloomington Series: What is Happening Behind the Kitchen Door?

Students in the Indiana University Fall 2014 course I-300: Global Human Trafficking are raising awareness about service industry exploitation in Middle America. Behind the Kitchen Door (Cornell University Press, 2013) author Saru Jayaraman has received numerous awards for her efforts to do the same.

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S. Jarayaman

Jayaraman, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has performed extensive research into the abusive labor practices and exploitative compensation policies faced by many working in the food and agriculture industries in the United States.

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You can check out Behind the Kitchen Door book trailers and Jayaraman’s blog for the Berkeley Labor Center, which features commentary such as “To Tip or Not to Tip” and updates on the growing Living Wage movement led by U.S. fast food workers. Jarayaman’s Bill Maher interview is also available online.

Fair Labor Bloomington Series: Students Engage with the Bloomington Human Rights Commission

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On Wednesday, September 24th, Dr. Korytova’s Global Human Trafficking class welcomed representatives from the Bloomington Human Rights Commission. Michael Molenda, Barbara McKinney, and introduced the mission and work of the BHRC. Students and guests went on to discuss logistics for the Fair Labor Bloomington project, including design of the certification decal and the definition of workers’ rights to be promoted by the project.

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Input from Michael Molenda, Associate Professor emeritus of Instructional Systems Technology and secretary of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission.

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Presentation by Ms. Barbara E. McKinney, Assistant City Attorney with the City of Bloomington Legal Department and Director of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission.

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Students’ input is integral to Fair Labor Bloomington project planning. Students will also perform much of the leg work to get the project off the ground.

 

 

Fair Labor Bloomington Series: INTRODUCTION

The Bloomington Human Rights Commission and Indiana University Fall 2014 course I300: Global Human Trafficking led by instructor Dr. Stepanka Korytova are pursuing a Fair Labor Practices project. The goal of this semester-long service learning project is to educate the public, advocate for fair treatment, and eliminate discriminatory labor practices in Bloomington, Indiana restaurants. Restaurants that pledge to uphold fair labor practices and post information about U.S. labor laws will receive a “Fair Labor Bloomington” window decal that is being developed by the Bloomington City council artist.

Check back in the coming weeks for restaurant-related news and regular updates from I300 students on their progress!

Former President Jimmy Carter on Sex Trafficking

Former President Jimmy Carter’s A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power bridges the subject of human trafficking in a chapter on “Slavery and Prostitution.” Carter approaches the rights of women laborers from a perspective that is both moralistic and rights-based.

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Carter opens by mentioning the work of Free the Slaves founder Siddharth Kara, who has called for a focus on male customers who “keep the slave masters and brothel owners in business,” and notes the “tragic” trend of pimpless prostitution made possible via websites like BackPage and Craigslist.

After discussing the state of sex sale and slavery in the United States, Carter turns to the topic of anti-trafficking efforts in India and Nepal. He introduces a variety of factors leading to the trafficking of women and girls: poverty, promises of legitimate employment, rapid urbanization, and a gender imbalance due to sex-selective abortion (a topic Carter tackles earlier in his book) that makes it difficult for young men to find female partners. For the reader unfamiliar with trafficking, it becomes apparent that there is more at play than demand for sex alone.

Carter closes the chapter with a long recounting of his efforts to work with regional leaders to curb the spread of HIV in southern African. He criticizes the former stance of the Catholic Church, which has consistently refused to condone the use of condoms as an HIV prevention method, and of western evangelical groups who convinced leaders in Uganda to adopt an “abstinence only” approach for similar moralistic reasons. By the close of his discussion, Carter’s call to educate sex workers and clients and make sex work safer reflects a practical rather than a moralistic plea. Here and throughout his book, Carter rails against institutions that inhibit human rights in the name of religious doctrine and holds them accountable for what he—himself a Baptist minister—considers to be gross distortions of inter-faith values like compassion and special assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable.

The Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Controversy

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The Super Bowl came and went almost a week ago, but not without the fanfare of governor speeches, police crackdowns, prevention and education campaigns related to what has become a staple concern in relation to America’s biggest game: sex trafficking. The New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking produced a fact sheet summarizing anti-trafficking efforts in their state. (It is succinct, highly informative, and worth a read.)

You can read last year’s post on Trafficking and Sports for a brief overview of the issue, but what is known about the hype is basically twofold: 1) Sex trafficking in the United States is all too real. 2) Claims about inordinate spikes in sex trafficking in the latest Superbowl host city are unfounded.

Kate Mogulescu’s recent New York Times Op-Ed offers some perspective. Mogulescu is the supervising attorney for a Legal Aid Society project that represents nearly all of the individuals arrested on prostitution charges in New York City. Mogulescu details the trouble caused by drastic upticks in prostitution-related stings. The local legal system and organizations like the Legal Aid Society, she writes, become inundated with cases, even though a successful designation of victim-hood for a single trafficking survivor–and the subsequent matching of that survivor with the rehabilitative services to which she is entitled–can be extremely difficult:

I know firsthand the devastating consequences that aggressive arrest practices can have for both trafficked and nontrafficked people engaging in prostitution. Many, but not all, of our clients are, in fact, trafficked, and many more have survived an extensive amount of brutality, violence and trauma. Turning them into defendants and pushing them through the criminal justice system contradicts any claim of assistance.

As a colleague said recently, perhaps the awareness raised by the annual tradition of Super Bowl sex-trafficking hype (#1 on a list of six major “Super Bowl myths” that TIME Sports investigated at the end of January) will be ultimately positive for victims and their advocates. By now, the average American may say that they have heard of trafficking. Though their current understanding of this incredibly complex issue may be limited at best, there is room for growth. Future Super Bowls may bring more sophisticated media campaigns. Police forces might be trained in more effective anti-trafficking tactics. Public expectations of what trafficking prevention looks like may change.

In the fact sheet referred to above, the New Jersey Coalition addresses “those who downplay concern about Super Bowl” directly, noting that the event is

…an opportunity to educate the community.  People will stop and listen if you mention Super Bowl but not necessarily if you just talk about Human Trafficking…

They continue:

Raising human trafficking awareness is not a one time, one event, cause. Rather, promoting Human Trafficking awareness, especially during a national event such as the Super Bowl, allows for wide-spread community attentiveness to the issue. The problem of Human Trafficking in New Jersey will not end with the Super Bowl.  It is the hope that the NJ Coalition’s awareness campaign will help to prevent Human Trafficking in New Jersey and when it does occur, to reach out to victims, providing them with aid and resources.

Indeed, Governor Christ Christie signed one of the nation’s newest anti-human trafficking laws into effect in New Jersey last summer and has made trafficking prevention a “priority” in the state. New York City established a Special Circuit Court to deal with trafficking cases. A couple of years back, when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl, Indiana passed their own anti-trafficking law and the Attorney General’s anti-trafficking task force is (still) fully operational today. None of these, it might be argued, would have been accomplished without the Super Bowl as impetus. But Mogulescu’s closing paragraphs are not so forgiving:

The annual oversimplification of the issue, in which we conflate all prostitution with trafficking, and then imply that arrest equals solution, does a disservice to year-round efforts to genuinely assist survivors of trafficking — with emergency housing, medical care and other crucial services.

Remove the guise of ‘preventing’ human trafficking, and we are left with a cautionary tale of how efforts to clean up the town for a media event rely on criminalizing people, with long-lasting implications for those who are then trapped in the criminal justice system. If we continue to perpetuate fallacies like the Super Bowl sex-trafficking phenomenon, we will continue to perpetuate the harm caused by prostitution arrests in the name of helping victims.

We must judge Super Bowl anti-sex trafficking efforts not by the number of arrests accomplished by a host city, but by that city’s ability to assist trafficking survivors affected by those arrests. Future host cities should use the Super Bowl as an impetus for sustained change, and commit to longer-term and coordinated efforts to combat and prevent human trafficking, sex-related and not. First and foremost, they should ensure that their efforts are survivor-centered.

The “Great Plains Oil Rush” and the Rising Demand for Sex

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Last week, NPR released a series of radio pieces connected to the so-called Great Plains Oil Rush, or, if you’d prefer, a “modern-day Gold Rush in motion.” Most of us have heard something about the newly-bustling oil fields of eastern North Dakota, where sleepy rural towns have been transformed by sky-rocketing populations and traffic jams.

This “new” rough-and-tumble frontier, much like historical iterations, is predominantly populated by men: single, lonely men living in “man camps,” trailers and temporary row housing sponsored by oil companies. According to a February 1 installment of the NPR series, Booming Oil Fields May Be Giving Sex Trafficking A Boost, it is this demographic that an allegedly increasing number of sex workers–and sex traffickers–are looking to capitalize on.

In the words of one long-time resident of Williston, North Dakota, “If you’re looking for it [paid sex], you can find it; it’s there. You know, there’s women looking to make money, too.” But in North Dakota and Montana, as elsewhere, it is difficult for law enforcement and advocates alike to differentiate the “professional” sex workers from those forced into the trade by traffickers. In the United States, it is easiest to do so using the age of consent, currenty 18 years in North Dakota and 16 years in neighboring Montana. Young women or men found to be working in the sex trade may be considered trafficking victims by default  though, in practice, it takes knowledgeable local authorities and a successful application of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act plus relevant state and local laws to connect an individual “victim” with the services to which they are entitled. Women and men above the age of consent, on the other hand, are usually jailed or fined as perpetrators of illegal sex work.
See the whole Oil Rush story here (also hyperlinked above).

Forced Labor and the Sochi Olympics II

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Two weeks ago we featured an extended post on Sochi, where a combination of corporate and government abuse of construction workers–particularly those hailing from outside Russia–has marred the run-up to the Olympic Winter Games.

Since then, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released an article on the exploitation and subsequent deportation of Serbs working in Sochi, a case that we also covered here. The RFE/RL piece further emphasizes the very blurry lines between Sochi-based construction contractors, Russia’s Federal Migration Service, and other unidentifiable groups who worked together to accomplish combinations of the following:

  1. Bring foreign workers, from Southeastern Europe, Turkey, and (much more typically) from former Soviet Central Asia, albeit without work permit.
  2. Facilitate trips across the Russia-Georgia border (or, if you like, the Russia-Abkhazia border, as the former recognizes the latter as an independent nation) to provide a semblance of legality, ie, renewed passport stamps.
  3. Ensure workers’ ultimate arrest and expulsion by Russian authorities, often for lack of work permits or papers, and usually before said workers have been fully or even partially compensated for months of labor performed.

According to REF/RL, the Serbian Embassy recently arranged an emergency flight to evacuate 123 Serbian and Bosnia-Herzegovinian citizens after they were detained by migration authorities, and on January 23, Serbian police arrested Serbian national Dusan Kukic, the owner of a Cacak-based recruiting firm that arranged work for Serbs in Sochi. The fate of many thousands of Central Asian and other laborers remains less clear. An (English language) web search identified the February 2013 Human Rights Watch Report on labor exploitation at Sochi and few other sources.

Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), an organization working to raise worldwide awareness of labor abuses in Sochi, Brazil (in the lead-up to this summer’s World Cup football tournament) and Qatar (set to host the World Cup 2022), has published an official condemnation of the treatment of Sochi workers. BWI addresses both the Russian government and the International Olympics Committee, criticizing the subjection of workers to withheld pay and unsafe living and working conditions. (BWI estimates that 60 workers have died building Olympic venues in Sochi, while the Russian government’s official statistics are about half that).

BWI is worried about a Sochi “repeat” across the 11 Russian cities slated to host World Cup matches in 2018 (yes, that’s right, new event, same Russia). A Mother Jones article from October connected the dots between Russia, Brazil, and Qatar, and I’ve also written on the subject. It is now more apparent than ever that when it comes to major international sporting events, labor exploitation is just one of many human rights-related concerns that should raise eyebrows among athletes and fans alike.

(Thanks to Tos Añonuevo, BWI Education Secretary, for the link above.)

NO SWEAT! at IU

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Student group No Sweat! wants to end Indiana University’s dependence on apparel produced by sweat-shop labor. Events like last October’s “Check your Tags” Awareness Day (link this to the IDS article) raise awareness about international labor abuses and highlight the direct connection between students and the workers who have produced their clothing. Group members also educate university administrators about apparel companies and advocate for a university-wide switch to fairer, more sustainable apparel. No Sweat! is an affiliate of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).

“Nothing was like we agreed earlier”: Forced Labor and the Sochi Olympic Games

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If the Olympic Games have stood historically for warm and fuzzy shared values among diverse nations and peoples, they are also increasingly illustrative of much darker global realities—corruption and unbridled political power, the ebb and flow of clean and dirty capital, and the supply chains of international human trafficking.

Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), which advocates for the rights of construction workers around the world, has world-class sporting events on their radar. They lead a project called Campanha pelo Trabalho Decente (“Campaign for Decent Work”), which seeks to improve labor conditions in 2014 World Cup host country Brazil and occasionally denounces instances of worker exploitation and “trafficking.” They are already gearing up for the 2022 World Cup to be hosted by Qatar, lobbying FIFA  to protect stadium construction workers in a region of the world where discrimination against guest workers is enshrined in national laws.

But BWI’s latest news coverage includes a story on Serbian construction workers, part of a force of tens of thousands of foreign laborers flown, trained, and trucked into southern Russia to build the groundwork for next month’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Tens of workers have contacted the Serbian chapter of BWI since returning to Serbia from stints as guest workers in Sochi. They allege that major Russian construction corportation, Novi Gorod (“New City”), practiced what amounts to trafficking by denying workers the legal documents required by guest workers, subjecting them to perpetually poor living conditions, paying only part of worker-earned salaries or, in some cases, none at all. While dangerous working conditions have led to workers’ deaths on-site, strikes calling for improved safety are forbidden upon threat, and workers wishing to return home early are not released from their contracts.

ASTRA, an anti-trafficking coalition dedicated to eradicating trafficking and related violence in Southeast Europe, relays direct testimony  from several of these returned workers. According to one individual

We were given the airplane tickets and were very optimistic upon our departure. But everything went wrong as soon as we arrived to Sochi. They took away our passports at once and we were given the photocopy which was supposed to be used only for moving around in the town. Six of us were accommodated in small rooms; there were no signs of TV sets and refrigerators which were promised earlier. We worked 12 hours a day, except on Sundays when we used to work until lunchtime.

Another relays:

I lost my job and found the advertisement by chance. Everything seemed reliable and only in Sochi I realized that this mediator was an ordinary crook. Of course, nothing was like we agreed earlier. Since January 2010 the company ‘Novi Gorod’ for which we have been working, started to be late with payments and by December they owed an average of eight monthly salaries to each worker. They would only pay small advance payments and we never even got a medical insurance.

These classic tales of deception (the “fraud” in the U.S. definition of trafficking as “force, fraud, or coercion”) will sound familiar to trafficking survivors around the world, whether male or female, young or old, well-educated or illiterate, Serbian or Nigerian, working in construction, housekeeping, or the sex industry. An ASTRA representative relays that in Sochi, as elsewhere, allegations against corporations like Novi Gorod are most often traced to sub-contractors, much smaller companies that are slipperier, more difficult to hold accountable or even to track down for comment. Many have been founded by Serbian nationals, individuals with the ties to recruit in their home country and who must work closely with local officials and mafia to maintain their “privilege” of doing business.

One Dutch reporter- and filmmaker-team has done the kind of long-term observation and investigative reporting that can shed more light on such nuances. Rob Hornstra and Arnold Van Brugen covered the fascinating pre-Olympics saga for a period of five years. They begin their story in 2007, when Russia won their bid to host the 2014 Games in what was then a rustic seaside holiday town lacking a single Olympics- appropriate structure—arena, hotel, road, or otherwise. Hornstra and Van Brugen’s Sochi Project, a film showcasing the corruption and human rights violations the team documented, has been making the documentary film festival rounds since last fall and includes some focus on the plight of foreign guest workers in particular. (See also Andrea Rossini’s review for the Italian Balkan and Caucasus Observatory.) Human Rights Watch has also provided extensive, long-term coverage of all manner of abuses related to the Sochi Games, including the trafficking of migrant workers .

The U.S. Department of State’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released in June, quoted a 2012 speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he condemned human trafficking—for the first time, at least publicly—calling for the prosecution of those “who organize flows of illegal immigrants, hire people without work permits and use them as slaves” (U.S. Department of State, 2013). High-level officials in the Putin administration have also spoken out in the lead-up to the Sochi Games. And just two weeks ago on January 10, 2014, Russian officials released their estimates of the total wages stolen from Sochi workers—amounting  and vowed to compensate them. Human Rights Watch Russia’s Jane Buchanan urges the fulfillment of this promise but notes that many workers have already been expelled to make way for Olympic competitors and fans. She wonders what will happen to workers who lack documentation like work permits, visas, and employee contracts to support their claims.

The plight of Sochi workers seems destined to fade from public view soon, but it must be noted that Sochi is not necessarily the worst of Russia’s problems. Serbians, North Koreans, Central Asians, and even Russian nationals from the Caucasus region experience abuses across the country, from police harassment and detainment in Moscow to forced labor and isolation in Siberian logging camps. And with more world sporting events—including the 2018 World Cup in Russia—on the horizon, worker exploitation must be met with continued scrutiny, not just by human and labor rights groups but by countries who send their athletes and spectators to compete.

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