We Are: proud to provide this meta Info resource below, touching on the immense scope of modern-day Slavery. For those looking to learn more, we hope this can be of use.
Nearly every culture, nation and civilization throughout recorded history has been corroded by the Institution of slavery. It is institutional, because in order to persist, it must be supported by those in power, despite empty proclamations to the contrary. And in order to persist as an acceptable foundation of global economic trade and profiteering, it must be condoned by information gatekeepers, and willing consumers alike.
Modern day slavery, and the typical routes taken to slavery (literally), are well known and documented. Yet it has only grown and prospered. Slavery is now intertwined with, and informs our understanding of, two other global human crisis: refugee and immigration.
Today, there are 40 MM slaves in the world: more than at any other time in human history
Estimated 70% are female
Estimated 1:4 are children
In 1850 a slave cost the equivalent of $40K – today, $90. (Kevin Bales, anti-slavery author and activist)
As Kevin Bales explains, the transparent explosion in the sheer number of modern-day slaves has eroded the economic ties that maintain their individual worth as slaves – and now, most are considered “Disposable People.”
Most of us think of slavery as chattel slavery, that of reducing a human being to nothing more than property, and owning them outright. Modern day slavery includes the denial of the freedom of a person for self-determination – over their bodies, their choice for work, the conditions under which they live. It includes the crimes of human (children and adult) trafficking, debt bondage, forced labor (sex, Ag, domestic work, military, prisons), forced marriage, sale and exploitation, and servitude.
Human trafficking is believed to be the third largest criminal activity in the world. And as you see from the reports cited below, some of the world's very richest corporations or citizens are connected to the slave trade – without any accountability. The International Labor Organization estimates slavery generates $150 B per year in profits worldwide. Worker exploitation has rapidly escalated, and with the shift to far-right politics worldwide, the environment for slavery will only improve for masters.
Is slavery inevitable?
How conditions in the US informs the path to acceptance
The driving force of slavery today is societal acceptance of an economic system which relentlessly plunges towards lower prices while ignoring the human and environmental tolls of this “race-to-the-bottom,” and the corruption of patronage politics which collectively looks the other way.
As the above haunting quote from Doug Schifter shows, in the US in 2018, slavery takes many forms-- barely beneath the surface. Less obvious worker exploitation, transparently enabled by those in power, includes use of:
- outsourcing to 3rd parties w clear human/ environmental abuses, directly (Asian manufacturing, Garment industry) or indirectly (while corporate leaders disavow any knowledge of employee conditions)
- classifying workers as “independent” labor contractors (without benefits/ safety protections)
- “gig economy” jobs where workers like D. Schifter feel like slaves after hopelessly working around the clock for poverty wages and little labor law protections -- for some of the world's most highly valued companies.
- stagnating minimum wage rates at poverty wage levels, dismissal of living wage, assaults on collective bargaining, retirement benefits, workplace safety, public education, public assistance
- “guestworker”/ visa programs, (see also Disney visa, Disney worker poverty, and Farmworker Justice)
- painstaking paths for domestic, Ag, and tipped workers, to gain labor protections in law
- use of prison labor, including by US corporations for free or pennies per day (see Corcraft '17)
Even in the prosperous US, nearly 1:5 live in/near poverty, mean annual wages for men peaked 40+ years ago, and national/ many state minimum wage rates are stagnating at poverty wage rates for full time work. Working families living in poverty require bottom of barrel prices to survive... which leads to greater slavery in a deliberately obscured global corporate supply chain.
It is easy to see how the race-to-the-bottom economics in the US is a vicious cycle that helps propel people and planet into crisis.
If we have long accepted poverty wages here in the US as some form of “collateral damage,” it is easy to understand why we are also complicit in allowing slavery worldwide to persist, supported it with our “low-cost” consumer purchases, and ambivalence on demanding corporate and government enforcement.
The Power of the Consumer: some industries associated with Slavery
Wikipedia, many primary source references, including: "
A major report released in 2015 by the Payson Center for International Development of Tulane University, funded by the United States Department of Labor, reported a 51% increase in the number of child workers (1.4 million) in the cocoa industry in 2013-14, compared to 2008-09. Those living in "slave-like conditions" increased 10 percent in the same time period (to 1.1 million)."
Sugar, palm oil (processed/ packaged foods), dairy, cotton, farmworkers worldwide. As Ag industry rapidly moves to mechanical harvesting, it looks like US government has decided it will no longer publicly serve corporate needs for cheap labor by allowing large numbers of immigrants across the border, or driving them here having already destroyed Mexico's Ag industry.
LA Times, 4 -part series, “Hardship on Mexico's farms, a bounty for U.S. Tables” 12'14
Bloomberg businessweek: “Indonesia's Palm Oil Industry Rife With Human-Rights Abuses" 7/'13
Verite, Re: Palm Oil
Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland
The Atlantic, "In the Strawberry Fields", 11/'95
The Price of Sugar documentary
Southern Poverty Law Center: “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States”
Not only is overfishing causing a crisis, the use of slaves is well known.
Associated Press, “Seafood from Slaves”, series, 2016
Sold to the Sea, documentary, '14
Guardian UK, “Revealed: Asian slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK" 6/'14
Guardian, UK: “UK police rescue nine suspected victims of slavery from British trawlers " 12/'17
Environmental Justice Foundation, Human Trafficking in Thailand's fishing industry, report, '15
Solidarity Center: True Cost of Shrimp report
Textiles, Carpets, Shoe Manufacturing
100 years ago, one of the deadliest industrial fires in the US, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, resulted in changes to labor laws. Nearly 20 years ago, celebrity Kathie Lee Gifford's apparel company, was accused of abusive conditions in her garment factories. And 5 years ago, a devastating fire killed more than 1,100 garment workers at Rana Plaza. What's changed? Fashion – at what price?
Slate: “We Are Nothing but Machines to Them” 12/'16
UDITA (Arise) 2015 documentary about Bangladesh women garment workers
Mining/ Minerals/ Tech products
Amnesty International: “Is my phone powered by child labour?”
Complicit documentary, 2014
Guardian UK: “Beauty companies and the struggle to source child labour-free mica” 7/'16
Guardian UK: “Tarnished gold: why Peru's forced labor mining matters to the US” 10/'13
PBS Newshour: “One Million Children Labor in Africa’s Goldmines” 7/'13
Washington Post: “The hidden costs of cobalt mining” 2/'18
Human Trafficking/ Sex trade
Business Insider, “This Is What Modern-Day Sex Slavery In America Looks Like”, 8/'14
The Atlantic, “When Sex Trafficking Goes Unnoticed in America” 2/'16
Women and children trafficked heavily in the US, in all 50 states. The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the top 3 primary transport hubs for human trafficking in the country. Children in the foster care system are decidedly more at risk. The needs of victims of trafficking are among the most complex of crime victims, often requiring a multidisciplinary approach to address severe trauma and medical needs, immigration and other legal issues, safety concerns, shelter and other basic daily needs, and financial hardship
NY Times Magazine, “The Girls Next Door”, 1/'04
CNN Freedom project, “Sex trafficking: The new American slavery”, 3/'17
SF Chronicle, “SF report uncovers nearly 500 cases of human trafficking”, 11/'16
Washington Post, "Blowin' Up takes a searing look...", 5/'18
Domestic Workers: home care
Is among the top forced labor positions from trafficking. Domestic /home care workers often live within their employers’ households, cooking, cleaning, and caretaking for children, the elderly or infirm. Home Care workers are Not protected under federal minimum wage and overtime pay regulations – however several states recently passed state level “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
CBS News, “Typical child care worker paid less than dog trainer”, 11/'15
National Domestic Workers Alliance report, “Home Economics”, 2017
The Washington Post, “Former U.S. diplomat again found liable for sexually enslaving a housekeeper” 7/'17