Slavery -- it just keeps on going on
One thing Trump's race baiting and Hillary's neocon foreign policies have in common is slavery. Trump's "southern strategy" (copying Nixon in 1968) is based on racial prejudice that goes back to slave days in the USA and the police story has never changed except for the attention or lack of it paid to the shameful truth. Hillary's neocon policy of blowing up the Middle has increased the amount of slavery wherever American ordnance and American soldiers (with or without boots) have landed.
Contemporary literature on the booming slave trade is copious. One recurrent theme is that while you can only sell a particular package of drugs once, you can sell a human being many times over for sex or for work.
We could only leave links for some of the longer pieces we thought were useful, but we specially recommend the report from California Attorney General Kamala Harris's office as an excellent introduction to the slavery around us:
The State of Human Trafficking in California, 2012, Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California
The Union Democrat
Sheriff releases details of kidnapping, human trafficking case
They slept on camp cots out in the open with a nearby hut used for food storage fashioned from uneven logs. Plastic tarps lay strewn across the ground or balled into clumps, surrounded by trash.
Photos provided during a news conference Tuesday at the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office in San Andreas displayed the ramshackle and squalid living conditions where authorities allege four Modesto men had been held hostage at an illegal marijuana plantation in the West Point area for four months earlier this year.
The men, whose names were not released, fled the camp after they learned they were to be murdered when the harvest was over, Calaveras County Capt. Jim Macedo said.
Authorities were alerted to the situation on July 27 when a West Point resident reported four men with various injuries, including bruises and black eyes, came to their house requesting the assistance of law enforcement.
Macedo said the victims had been exposed to prolonged physical abuse. One victim was hospitalized.
“Injuries tend to paint a picture of what’s going on,” Macedo said. “It reveals their emotional state about what happened.”
Macedo said the backcountry of West Point can seem like “the middle of nowhere” to someone not familiar with the area.
“It can seem like you’re a world away from your home. This is a direct result of the greed and money that’s involved with marijuana.”
Two of the men were originally picked up by a woman at a business known as a rendezvous point for day laborers. The woman said she needed work done on a home in Calaveras County.
After working at the location for a few days, the victims were taken by force to a West Point parcel of land to assist with the illegal cultivation of 23,245 marijuana plants, Macedo said.
Judging by the amount of food at the site, Macedo and others concluded that this “was a big operation.”
A cask of Jose Cuervo tequila, beads and jewelry, and a shrine to Santa Muerte, commonly known as the patron folk saint of narcotics traffickers, were found in Modesto. Calaveras County Sheriff’s booking logs both note the suspects had addresses in Modesto.
The camp was using an illegal water source to maintain the operation, Macedo said.
“They were outdoors largely while in captivity,” he said. “Some evidence shows they were held against their will.”
Macedo noted that the estimated street value of the marijuana at the location ranged from $18 million to $60 million. The grow was not registered under current medical marijuana laws in Calaveras, he added.
During the prisoners’ captivity, the growers were able to uncover the victim’s address in Modesto and proceeded to threaten family members. They insisted there would be consequences if they reported the kidnapping situation to the police.
At one point, some family members were reunited with the captives at the grow site in West Point, Macedo said. Two additional relatives, both men, were taken captive during the meeting and forced to work on the plantation with the original prisoners.
The victims complained about the poor working conditions and their inability to make regular phone contact with their families, inciting the ire of one of the armed men at the site.
This man “wanted to kill the victims,” Macedo said.
One of the growers reportedly responded that the hostages couldn’t be killed, because the marijuana cultivation hadn’t yet been completed. Once the harvest was finished, she reportedly said, they would be allowed to kill the victims.
The same day, one of the guards threatened a victim with a knife and attempted to stab him.
That’s when the four men decided to make their escape.
During the ensuing raid and investigation of the plantation, multiple cell phones, two firearms and $10,000 in cash were located.
Macedo said investigators are still looking for two additional male suspects.
Two women were taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement services after an arrest on Sept. 14. Investigators are reviewing additional charges for the women, who were identified as the ring-leaders of the grow operation.
The pair has a history of “using several aliases,” Macedo said. Macedo said he had been told they were in the country illegally.
“There was mention of cartel activity that has not been corroborated at this time,” he continued.
The FBI, Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department, Angels Camp Police Department, CalFire and others contributed to the investigation.
Guadalupe Sierra Arrellano, 43, known as “Lupe,” and Medara Urbietta Estudillo, 44, known as “Daniella,” were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, kidnapping, battery with serious bodily injury, terrorist threats, cultivating marijuana and possessing marijuana for sale. They are being held in the Calaveras County Jail on $800,000 bail each.
Arrellano was also arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court on a March 2013 citation for driving without a license.
Both women appeared at arraignment hearings Tuesday morning. Urbietta’s attorney asked Judge Grant Barrett to continue the hearing before she entered a plea.
Both women required the use of a Spanish-language interpreter at the hearings. Urbietta, looking docile and quiet, sat between her interpreter and her lawyer while they relayed information to her.
The arraignment hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 7 in Courtroom 1 at Calaveras County Superior Court.
Nationwide Prison Strike Against 'Slavery in America' Rolls on—Despite Media Blackout
The strike coincides with the anniversary of the 1971 uprising at Attica.
James Kilgore / Truthout
The first national prison labor strike in US history launched on September 9. Billed as a "Call to Action Against Slavery in America," the spark for the action came from the Free Alabama Movement (FAM), a prison-based organization that has been mobilizing across the state since 2012. Alabama has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the country.
Reports from FAM's base within Holman Prison indicated a universal refusal of the population to go to work on September 9. Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, the chief outside spokesperson for FAM, speaking to Truthout on the day of the launch, said significant strike action also took place within prisons in South Carolina, Virginia and Ohio.
"These men have gone beyond religious barriers and race barriers and most of all, incarceration barriers," Glasgow told Truthout. By Wednesday evening, the Incarcerated Workers' Organizing Committee (IWOC) estimated that 15,310 people in prisons were on lockdown in facilities where organizing or strikes had been confirmed.
Several actions related to the strike have gained considerable attention. The night before the national action, some 400 men in Florida's Holmes prison staged a rebellion that lasted most of Thursday night. By Monday, collective resistance had spread to five Florida prisons, including civil disobedience by 40 men in Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City and a two-day work stoppage at nearby Mayo. In Northern Michigan's Kinross Correctional Facility, the men took a more low-key approach, with about 400 incarcerated individuals staging a demonstration inside the gates. Immediately after the action, 150 of them were put on buses and sent to other institutions.
Political prisoner Chelsea Manning also began a hunger strike on Saturday, September 10, apparently timed to coincide with the national actions. By Wednesday morning she had reportedly won her demand for gender-affirming surgery.
The legacy of slavery
The linkage between the strike action and slavery largely grew out of the extreme labor conditions inside Alabama prisons. In these facilities, many people work in license plate factories and on plantation-like farms for a few cents a day or, in some cases, no remuneration at all. The exploitation of prison labor in the state has been accentuated since the state legislature passed a law in 2012 to permit private contractors to employ people behind bars.
But the FAM vision also situated the exploitation of prison labor in the context of broader notions of injustice. Their launching statement said: "Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school-to-prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls." They went on to posit the potential systemic impact of their actions: "When we abolish slavery, they'll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they'll stop building traps to pull back those who they've released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves." As Free Alabama member Melvin Ray summed it up, "We're freedom fighters. We're not just fighting for wages, we're simply pointing out the fact that this is a slave model of free labor."
This action has deep historical roots. The day chosen to launch the strike, September 9, coincided with perhaps the most famous prison uprising in modern US history -- the rebellion in New York's Attica prison in 1971. On that occasion men of Attica's D yard took over their section of the prison and held it for four days. They issued a set of demands for improved conditions, but the bottom line was articulated by one of the leaders, L.D. Barkley: "We are men, we are not beasts, and do not intend to be beaten or driven as such." In the end, Barkley and 38 other men died in that prison yard after an armed assault launched by state troopers. The dead included 10 prison staff.
While the Attica legacy has drawn much attention as an inspiration for the recent strike, the rebellion in upstate New York was an expression of a national awareness among people on the inside during that period. Sundiata Tate spoke to Truthout about this history. Tate was a long-time activist inside California state institutions and close associate of legendary prison revolutionary George Jackson, who was murdered at San Quentin prison in August 1971. Tate told Truthout that there were often-forgotten links between resistance in California prisons and the events in New York. Tate recalled that the seizure of D yard took place less than a month after the murder of Jackson. "People on the East Coast had heard about him, people in the prisons... George was able to reach out into society," he said. Once the men in Attica seized the yard, Tate noted, "One of the things they mentioned was the death of 'Comrade' (Jackson)." At the time, Jackson was a well-known member of the Black Panther Party as well as well as the author of a bestseller written from behind prison walls, Soledad Brother.
In Alabama, the historical roots of the strike also lie in the day-to-day political work done by many incarcerated activists and their families over the years. For instance, former political prisoner Sekou Kambui, who spent 47 years in Alabama state prisons, used his decades behind bars as an educator and organizer, building political awareness and commitment amongst the population and the community, laying the groundwork for present-day activists.
The significance of the strike
The strike represents the nexus of several waves of recent social justice activism: the growing movement against mass incarceration; offensives against systemic racism, led by the Movement for Black Lives; and the actions by low-wage workers to gain the $15-an-hour minimum wage. The call for a living wage on the streets resonates behind prison walls, where wages have stagnated for decades while those in prison have seen their living conditions deteriorate due to the cutbacks in educational programs and job training, and the addition of copays for services like health care.
This latest prison strike also constituted an ambitious escalation in scale and tactics of a wave of resistance in prison in recent years. The three hunger strikes in California prisons -- largely a protest against solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit and the use of "gang validation" to justify prolonged isolation of prisoner/organizers -- have drawn the most attention. However, those in Pelican Bay are not alone. In June of this year, several men inside the Waupun Correctional Institute in Wisconsin embarked on a prolonged "Dying to Live" hunger strike that resulted in forced feeding by prison authorities.
Many other actions have also occurred: labor strikes in Georgia prisons in 2010 along with recent work stoppages in Texas and several Alabama prisons, including an April uprising in Holman. Immigration detention centers have also been the scene of many actions, several led by women. Last fall, women prisoners at Yuba County Jail in California joined a hunger strike initiated by their counterparts who were held in immigrant detention centers in California, Colorado and Texas. These mobilizations are largely a protest against the criminalization of people seeking asylum in the United States as a result of political violence in Central American countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Assessing the strike
Though information on the level of activity remains limited, the strike appears to have fallen short of the predictions by FAM of the involvement of incarcerated people from 25 states and 54 prisons. The reasons why the action may not have reached anticipated levels are not difficult to discern. To begin with, since prison officials were forewarned, many institutional authorities may have simply imposed a lockdown before September 9, short-circuiting any opportunity for people to refuse to go to work. Evidence of this came via video from one man in a South Carolina prison who posted a clip of water in his cell after men on his block flooded the area as a protest against four days of lockdown.
Second, organizers both inside and outside prison possibly underestimated the difficulty in mobilizing people who are incarcerated, especially at a national level. Most prisons and jails ban meetings or even doing physical exercises in groups. In addition, prison officials have a range of punitive tools available to block coordination and communication. Apart from the possibilities of physical beatings, individuals suspected of organizing collective resistance can be placed in solitary or have visiting and phone privileges denied. Most importantly, for those who do not have a life sentence, receiving a disciplinary infraction can result in an extension of their sentence. In addition, prisons typically have surveillance capacity. They can listen to outgoing phone calls and eavesdrop on visits.
Plus, the widespread use of confidential informants within the institutions provides authorities with an ear to the ground of the details of planned actions. Several instances of reprisals against individuals identified as strike leaders have already been reported. All of these, when combined with the lack of access to information technology inside prisons, pose formidable obstacles to coordinated action.
Perhaps the surprise is not that the strike didn't reach the level hoped for, but that the spirit of protest and rebellion penetrated as widely as it did.
Ultimately, this strike achieved a number of important milestones. Most importantly, strike organizers highlighted the oppressive labor and living conditions inside prisons. No other action in recent times has shone as bright a light on the fact that incarcerated people perform the bulk of the work that keeps the institutions running, from cooking to cleaning to managing the HVAC systems and repairing the electrical circuits. And they do this for little or no pay.
The strike also raised the specter of coordinated national action to emphasize the systemic, national quality of not only conditions of prisons as a workplace, but also as a site of punishment and enslavement.
In addition, although as noted above, most prisons provide no access to the internet or cell phones, the action offered a showcase for how information technology can become an effective tool for sharing the experiences and aspirations of incarcerated people. Individuals on the inside are discovering new ways to make their voices heard on social media. While people like Mumia Abu-Jamal have long communicated with the outside through interlocutors, the men at Holman went further -- producing videos earlier this year that exposed the oppressive conditions under which they live. They also captured real-time action of their uprising in April. Kinetik Justice, one of the leaders of FAM, spoke live on Democracy Now! during a strike in May, telling the world that "the prison system is a continuation of the slave system." Justice has been in solitary confinement for 28 months since playing a leading role in a 2014 protest at Holman but still found his way to the airwaves.
Moreover, social media were crucial in organizing support for prison resistance in communities across the country. IWOC, a relatively small organization, has maintained a constant vocal presence on Facebook and Twitter, with local activists posting videos, photos and written updates in real time. As a result, communities across the country stood up in support of the strike. Actions took place in some 60 locations, including all major cities. Even small towns like Hutchison, Kentucky; Champaign, Illinois; and Merced, California staged noise demonstrations, educational events and mobilizations outside of prisons. IWOC's webpage produced a daily log of dozens of solidarity actions, which began in early August, while a Google doc tracked strike actions. IWOC's reach, coupled with the moral appeal of the voices from inside prison, even succeeded in drawing statements of solidarity from European countries, such as Serbia, Lithuania, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
Lastly, the strike has added further momentum to reconstruct or replace the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. This amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," effectively permitting the enslavement of those who have been convicted of a crime. The spirit of this amendment flies in the face of increasing pressure for full rights of citizenship and equality for all those convicted of a crime or with a record of incarceration. As Pastor Glasgow put it, "As long as it sits in our Constitution, along with it sits slavery in our Constitution... the 13th Amendment needs to be reconstructed."
Attention to the 13th Amendment's legalization of slavery for people who have been convicted of crimes is likely to further heighten later this month when Ava Duvernay's Netflix film, The 13th, launches at the New York Film Festival.
Key issues for social movements
This strike has also brought to the fore a number of important issues relating to the struggle against mass incarceration and the building of broad movements for social justice and liberation.
The fundamental nature of the strike action raises interesting questions. In a telephone interview with Truthout, talk show host, writer and activist Bill Fletcher, also a former trade union official, expressed uncertainty as to whether the national action was a rebellion or an effort to organize a union. If it was a unionization effort, he was unclear what the specific objectives were and, given the lack of collective bargaining rights inside prisons, "if there is a way to sustain any kind of victory." Certainly the demands of FAM, as well as those in Kinross and other prisons, went well beyond traditional labor notions of increased pay, shorter working hours and better working conditions. Moreover, a large number of the actions were not refusals to work but other forms of protest, including hunger strikes and demonstrations. While the IWOC literature on the strike has stressed the low wage levels and encouraged the formation of union chapters at the prison level, FAM has not adopted this strategy. Pastor Glasgow stated that FAM views prison labor as slave labor that must be ended rather than fall under a union ambit.
The issue is further complicated by attempting to identify the beneficiaries of prison labor: Who is making money? According to Glasgow, companies in Alabama are not outsourcing labor overseas -- they are "insourcing" to people in prison. Yet, much of the production taking place in Alabama prisons, such as license-plate making and agriculture, is designed for use by government rather than for private profit. This is the case across the country, where a relatively small number of people behind bars actually work under contract to private companies. The question then emerges as to whether prisons are primarily profit centers for exploiting labor or a political project driven by white supremacy and neoliberal economic restructuring.
In other words, are people incarcerated in order to mobilize their labor power inside prison, or to erase them from urban landscapes that are being gentrified into enclaves of race and class privilege?
The complexities of solidarity
A second crucial question arising from this strike concerns the challenges of building solidarity between people inside prison and those on the outside. IWOC has played the major role in promoting awareness of the strike and getting the statements and voices of FAM and others behind bars onto the streets. An offshoot of an early 20th century labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies), the IWOC says its key aim is to "further the revolutionary goals of incarcerated people and the IWW through mutual organizing of a worldwide union for emancipation from the prison system."
In mobilizing support for the September 9 action, IWOC has helped create one of the most widespread, social-media-savvy networks in the history of the struggle against mass incarceration. Yet IWOC also has a determination to build the strength of its own organization by creating local chapters inside prisons. Its website even includes a link to donate money to pay the annual dues of an "incarcerated worker." According to activist Claude Marks, the support efforts for the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers, of which he was a part, took a different approach. He told Truthout: "We focused on raising money to mobilize the families of those incarcerated to organize and speak out."
While clearly there is a need to incorporate people who are incarcerated into the movement against mass incarceration and for social justice, the complexities of the difference between amplifying the voices of those inside and speaking for them pose key challenges for all those involved in such work. The differences in these approaches have important gender and racial implications. While most of the people involved in the actions inside are men, their family support networks are predominantly women. By lifting up the voices of the families, organizers are acknowledging that individuals who are incarcerated do not do their time alone. Their loved ones also suffer and are willing to fight back. To date, in the September 9 strike, the voices of the families have been faint.
Moreover, efforts to build solidarity and the profile of the movement create uncertainties about how to handle information that comes from unverifiable sources, be they prison officials or individuals who are incarcerated. The repressive conditions in prisons during moments of conflict heighten the complexities of verification. This context perhaps leads to attempts by organizers and supporters to engage in questionable practices like implying that the ongoing hunger strikes at Guantanamo have some relation to the September 9 action.
The third question is perhaps the most obvious: Where was organized labor during this strike and the run-up to September 9? As Fletcher points out, "Organized labor has, up until recently, ignored the issue of mass incarceration." While prisons and jails hold millions of marginalized workers, the unions' reluctance to take a position on mass incarceration relates to membership issues. Some of the country's largest and most significant unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), count on prison and jail workers, including guards, to boost their membership. Pushing back against incarceration could likely jeopardize these jobs. However, over the years union leaders have consistently criticized the use of prison labor, arguing that it undercuts the bargaining position of prison staff. Still, when the incarcerated labor force actually took action, the trade unions remained mute. Repeated efforts by Truthout to elicit a comment on the strike from national and regional officials of the AFL-CIO as well as the SEIU and AFSCME drew silence, apart from one AFL-CIO official who said that they "have not done work around prison labor for many, many years."
More fire to come?
In addition to the strike not surfacing on trade union agendas, mainstream and even alternative media sources have largely steered clear of the story. Though in some ways this strike may be as significant as Attica, media coverage and historical memory are more easily triggered when there is blood on the ground, especially the blood of rebellious, politically-conscious Black people. In last week's strike, we have an apparently unspectacular case of people standing up for their dignity by refusing to work. In taking this action, the activists behind bars, despite the intense efforts by IWOC, FAM and many others to publicize their actions, may not have done anything dramatic enough to draw significant media attention. The invisibility of worker issues blends with the invisibility of prison activities to create a low profile. Moreover, the ability of prison authorities to both suppress information and punish the rebels without recrimination relegates the heroic efforts of the strike to a sidebar in the chronicle of social justice struggles.
But it seems unlikely that those who want to silence or erase these actions forever will win the day. A flame of resistance inside prisons and in communities across the country is definitely burning. The prison strikers, along with their allies and accomplices on the street, will be on fire again soon.
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
James Kilgore is an activist, writer and educator based in Urbana, Illinois. His latest book is Sister Mercy’s Revenge. He is also the author of Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time (New Press, 2015).
Human Rights First
Guest Workers and Human Trafficking in California
Bankrupt Slavery: Dismantling the Business of Human Trafficking, Human Trafficking
The Christian Science Monitor recently explored the high volume of trafficked labor in California's guest worker community. Focusing on a 2006 case that exposed an exploitative labor contractor, the article addresses the gaps in U.S. labor law that allow human traffickers to profit off the blood, sweat, and tears of foreign workers.
The case: Trans Bay Steel, a structural steel and fabrication company that provided upgrades to the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. Seeking additional welders, Trans Bay contacted Yoo Taik Kim of Kota Manpower. Kim contracted out nine Thai guest workers to the company, telling Trans Bay management to submit paychecks to Kota Manpower for dispersal to the employees. But the men never saw the money.
After confronting Kim about nonpayment, the workers’ lives temporarily improved. But after renewed complaints several months later, Trans Bay began paying the men directly.
Soon thereafter, Trans Bay management cooperated with state authorities to put Kim behind bars and make right by the workers. California's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission informed Trans Bay that Kim had allegedly contracted 39 additional employees under the pretense of more welding work. They were instead forced to work in area restaurants, frequently for no pay. Furthermore, they were in debt due to thousands of dollars in “recruitment fees” for the opportunity to work in the United States.
The case was ultimately settled in 2006. Trans Bay paid out a $1 million settlement, paid back wages, and employed 22 of the men thereafter. Kim was convicted and sentenced to 41 months imprisonment.
Of the 130,00 foreign guest workers employed in California each year, 75 percent are hired through labor recruiters. Arriving from around the world, these men and women work in a variety of industries, often taking on crippling debt that is then used to control them. Frequently forced to sleep in cramped apartments or fenced labor camps, traffickers force them to work multiple jobs without chance of escape.
Under California's newly passed Foreign Labor Recruitment Law, California businesses can only work with labor contractors who have registered with the state's labor commissioner. The law also provides additional protections for foreign workers employed in the state, but will not go into effect until July 1st of this year.
California's efforts should be applauded, yet there are still gaps in measures to halt labor trafficking across the rest of the country. The U.S. government adopted new regulations in March 2015 requiring government contractors to put certain policies in place to better protect vulnerable workers. One catch: the new regulations ban charging workers for recruitment, similar to Kim’s charging the 39 workers, but fail to define what precisely constitutes a recruitment fee (e.g. visa fees, transportation, medical expenses, etc.).
These regulations went into effect nearly a year ago but still lack a precise definition, making them nearly impossible to enforce. The U.S. government needs to work with stakeholders from both the business sector and civil society—and across other federal agencies—to solve this problem and better protect workers now.
For more information on all of Human Rights First's recommendations to bankrupt slavery, read our blueprint: How to Dismantle the Business of Human Trafficking.
Truckers against Trafficking
About Truckers Against Trafficking
Modern-day slavery, or human trafficking exists whenever people are bought and sold for forced labor or commercial sex. Around the world, there are an estimated 20.9 million slaves today. Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, and the number of victims in the United States is estimated in the hundreds of thousands.
While illegal, human trafficking is a booming business. Traffickers recruit out of our schools, online, in shopping malls, as well as the streets and other locations. A large percentage of the people trafficked are women and children. Many of them are used in the sex industry. They are the prostituted people on the street and in private homes, and in legitimate businesses such as restaurants, truck stops and motels. They need to be identified and rescued.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
This is where you come in! Truckers Against Trafficking recognizes that members of the trucking industry and individual truckers are invaluable in the fight against this heinous crime. As the eyes and ears of our nation's highways, you are in a unique position to make a difference and close loopholes to traffickers who seek to exploit our transportation system for their personal gain. This site has been created to inform members of the trucking industry and other travelers of the basic issues involved in human trafficking and a summary of ways you can help. We invite you to travel through this website and learn how you can join this worthy cause and save lives.
Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) is a 501(c)3 that exists to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and travel plaza industry to combat domestic sex trafficking.
· Make the TAT training DVD, wallet cards (and other materials) a regular part of training/orientation for members of the trucking industry so that when they suspect human trafficking is taking place they can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-3737-888 and report what they know.
· Partner with law enforcement to facilitate the investigation of human trafficking.
· Marshal the resources of the trucking industry to combat this crime
How U.S. Invasions and War Have Exacerbated Slavery in 3 Countries
Short-sighted wars have destabilized regions, creating fertile ground for illegal slavers.
It’s a scary thing, just how much of our foreign policy is built on simple, almost folksy stories. The good guys vs. bad guys narrative used to sell America’s wars and interventionism was well-worn long before our most recent entry into Iraq, and it has grown increasingly threadbare after 15 years of war. Between 2001 and 2011, America launched strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where plans (kill leaders, bask in praise, leave as heroes) remained the same though the players differed. Instead, our myopic grandiosity and lack of post-interventionist planning helped plunge those places into chaos and bloody warfare far deadlier than before we arrived. “Modern forms of slavery prosper in these environments,” according to the human rights organization Walk Free, which it says is a consequence of festering “conflict, corruption, displacement, discrimination and inequality.”
The most compelling evidence for this lies in the tragic reality of numbers. According to Walk Free’s 2016 Global Slavery Index, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya rank near the top of the list, with hundreds of thousands of citizens living in some form of slavery, including “human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage, and the sale and exploitation of children.” In total, Walk Free—which interviewed more than 42,000 people in 53 different languages for this year’s survey—estimates there are a staggering 45.8 million people living under such harrowing conditions in 167 countries around the world.
The countries in the top five slots based on “estimated prevalence of modern slavery by the proportion of their population” are North Korea, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, India and Qatar. They rank just ahead of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, along with several nations including South Sudan, Syria and Pakistan, which all sit at number six on the list. In all three countries, the number of those enslaved represents approximately 1.13 percent the population, with some 403,800 people in Iraq, 367,600 in Afghanistan, and 70,900 in Libya trapped in systems of slavery. Years after America’s forces entered those countries proclaiming themselves liberators, the destabilizing effects of war, including “the brutal rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State,” have contributed to upheaval that has left incredible numbers of civilians and migrants in bondage.
“The 2016 Global Slavery Index has been prepared in the context of unprecedented mass movements of men, women and children, fleeing the horrors of protracted conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Libya,” study authors write. “The scale of the distress migration we have witnessed is hard to comprehend. In 2015–2016, the number of displaced people is expected to exceed 60 million. This is the equivalent of the entire population of Italy gathering what they can carry on their backs, and fleeing from their homes under threat of death, or worse."
In terms of raw numbers, India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan—nations “that produce consumer goods for markets in Western Europe, Japan, North America and Australia”—have the highest numbers of people living in slavery, with approximately 58 percent of the global enslaved total living in those nations. The figures for those nations are astounding: top spot holder India has approximately 18.4 million people living in slavery. It’s worthwhile, perhaps, to note that Walk Free notes that slavery is part of the human condition, present in every country and region. The U.S. State Department recognizes multiple forms of forced labor and trafficking as forms of modern slavery, but doesn’t count prison labor, though it is often tantamount to slavery.
While the human cost of slavery is astounding, the devastating consequences extend beyond those, leaving an indelible impact on the environment.
“Slavery, brutality, and environmental destruction feed into each other,” the organization writes in its report. “Refugees fleeing devastated environments that can no longer support them are caught up and enslaved, then forced to carry out even more destruction...This deadly, triangular trade stretches far beyond the Congo, across the world to other threatened villages and forests, and all the way to the rich countries of Europe and North America. It is a trade cycle based on armed conflict that grinds up the natural world and crushes human beings to churn out commodities like minerals for electronics, shrimp and fish, gold, cotton and clothing, iron and steel.”
The group notes that a little less than 50 percent of all illegal deforestation is carried out by slaves, and that criminal slaveholders are behind some 2.54 billion tons of CO2 which are released into the atmosphere each year. “Put another way,” the organization points out, “slaves are being forced to produce more greenhouse gases than any country in the world except China and the United States (the two largest polluters).”
The UN has previously pegged the illegal profits made from modern slavery at $150 billion globally, but that number is very likely an underestimate. Walk Free notes that exact figures for slavery around the group can be incredibly difficult to pin down; the shadowy figures go to great lengths to obscure their crimes. In fact, since the group’s 2014 report, the number of global enslaved has increased by 10 million.
Reuters notes that Andrew Forrest, the billionaire behind Walk Free, attributes the increase to better data collection, though he acknowledged concerns about “global displacement and migration” as contributors. All in all, Forrest said the report is "a straight-up call to action for leaders” to do everything in their power to end slavery around the world.
“In few other spheres is the need for courageous and committed leadership so critical,” Forrest writes in an open letter contained in the report. “Personally, I unashamedly use business to help end slavery and I ask every chairman and chief executive to join me. Organzations that don’t actively [root out] for forced labor within their supply chains are standing on a burning platform. These leaders, like all of us need support and empowerment to make major change. This is where governments can play a leading role.”
Dozens of Syrians forced into sexual slavery in derelict Lebanese house
Victims were tortured and only left house for abortions and treatment for venereal diseases in case that has shocked country
Kareem Shaheen in Beirut
Tucked in a leafy suburb of the Lebanese town of Jounieh, a short drive from the sparkling Mediterranean, stands a monument to human cruelty.
In this derelict two-story house, 75 Syrian women were forced into sexual slavery, the largest human trafficking network ever uncovered in Lebanon.
Here, the women were imprisoned after arriving from their war-torn country, sold for less than $2,000, and forced to have sex more than 10 times a day. Here they were beaten and tortured and electrocuted, and sometimes flogged if they didn’t get enough tips.
The windows and balconies are barred – giant cages where windows are painted black, depriving the women even of sunlight.
The women left the house to get abortions, of which they had about 200. They also left to be treated for venereal diseases, contracted after being forced to have unprotected sex with customers, or to be treated for skin ailments, brought on by their lack of exposure to the sun.
The house, called Chez Maurice, is now empty and sealed with red tape. Underwear and dirty clothes are strewn by the entrance, coffee spilled on the ground from the police raid.
Some windows have been left ajar, offering a glimpse into the lives of women held here for so long, some of whom were underaged when they arrived in Lebanon. The stench of rotting fruit rises from the dark interior, where clothes and half-empty cigarette packs are scattered about dingy rooms and beds with metal bars.
“These 75 women were saved from slavery, real slavery in this day and age with all the meaning of the word,” said Col Joseph Mousallam, spokesman for the Lebanese police. “They had lost every aspect of their freedom, over their bodies and even their thoughts. It was real slavery.”
Details of how the women were trafficked, the abuse they suffered, the architecture of the network and how it was eventually brought down were gleaned from interviews with Lebanese police and security officials, and a copy of the indictment in the case obtained by the Guardian. The names of some women were provided in the indictment, but their identities have been withheld.
The indictment charges 23 individuals with the crime of forming a human trafficking network, physically and psychologically torturing the women, imprisoning them and forcing them into prostitution.
It details the roles of the individuals accused of running the human trafficking network, including Fawaz Ali al-Hasan, the head of the network, and Imad al-Rihawi, a Syrian man alleged by police officials to be the enforcer of the group and who officials say is still on the run. Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper with close ties to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, said he was a former interrogator in the feared Syrian air force intelligence service. A security source familiar with the investigation later confirmed the claim to the Guardian.
The Lebanese authorities have requested Rihawi’s extradition if he is arrested in Syria, hinting that he may have returned to his home country following the crackdown on his network.
Police and judicial officials say the women were trafficked from war-torn Syria and Iraq, recruited by agents of the network for supposedly legitimate jobs such as restaurant workers, before being imprisoned at Chez Maurice.
“They were perhaps looking for weaker families, where nobody is going to ask about the woman, such as if her father died in the war,” said Mousallam. “They are hunters. They did not for a moment treat them as humans.”
Those who resisted working as prostitutes were raped and beaten, and then forced to have unprotected sex with customers. They were sometimes electrocuted or whipped, in an environment that judges described as “a journey to hell”.
The indictment said the women were forced to have sex with customers more than 10 times a day, making between $30-70 per session, all of which was taken away by the guards, including any tips, in effect making them sex slaves.
One of the women was “sold” by her husband to an agent in the network for $4,500. The others were bought by the agents for $1,000-$1,500. The agents would send pictures of their prospective catch by WhatsApp to the network’s top echelons, earning $2,500 per woman if the deal went through.
According to police those women who became pregnant were taken to a clinic in the northern Beirut suburb of Dekwaneh, run by a well-known doctor in the area called Riad Bulos. Bulos is alleged to have performed some 200 abortions on women in the network over four years, earning between $200 and $300 for each operation. He has been charged with carrying out abortions, a criminal offence in Lebanon. The Lebanese health minister said Bulos ought to “rot” in prison.
Male guards stood watch outside the house, female guards inside, keeping the women under a strict timetable. They reported the women if they failed to bring in sufficient tips, or if a customer complained, if their makeup or dress wasn’t up to standard, or if they did not perform well enough to convince the customers to stay for an extra hour. They would then be beaten.
The women would sometimes work for up to 20 hours a day, from 10am until 6am the following morning, barely catching some hours of sleep before they were called upon again.
They escaped on Easter Friday. Taking advantage of the fact the house was lightly guarded on the holiday, eight of the women overpowered the guards. Four were too scared to leave, conditioned for years to distrust all, and the other four fled. Three of the four took a minibus travelling to south Beirut, and told their story to a minivan driver, who called the police. Officers who had been trained to identify human trafficking networks arrived, interrogated the women and then planned the sting that brought an end to the tragedy.
Some of the women had been there for two or three years. The Internal Security Forces, Lebanon’s police, is conducting an internal investigation to determine how the network escaped detection for so long.
The women are now in a number of local shelters, shielded from the eyes of the media and given a chance to recuperate. The shelters are expected to provide them with social, legal, medical and psychological support, and are studying options to resettle them in another country. But first, they will be given a chance to rest away from any questioning, to come to terms with what they have suffered.
The case has shocked many in Lebanon. Maameltein, the suburb of Jounieh where the women were imprisoned, has long been known as Lebanon’s red-light district, the seaside resort’s streets peppered with casinos and “super-nightclubs” frequented by foreign visitors and Lebanese.
Many of the women who work there come into the country either through land crossings with Syria or through a loose entry scheme known as an “artist visa” that allows them to be employed formally as barmaids and performers in nightclubs, though most end up working as prostitutes.
The network’s downfall has sparked a broader conversation about prostitution – formally illegal in Lebanon according to the penal code – human trafficking and the exploitation and vulnerability of Syrians in the country, as well as broader societal attitudes towards sex and gender equality.
Lebanon passed a law to combat human trafficking in late 2011 under pressure from the US, and the police has renamed its vice squad the “human trafficking and vice team”, and trained officers to handle such cases.
Prior to that, human trafficking networks were prosecuted under the penal code criminalising prostitution, which equated the women in the network with their pimps. The new law treats the women as victims, though they are required in the law to prove that they were forced into prostitution. Since both laws are on the books and contradict each other, more efforts are required to train judges and law enforcement personnel to understand how to handle human trafficking cases, and rights workers believe the penal code article ought to be rescinded.
Anti-prostitution laws were never really a deterrent – people involved would be released after a month in prison – whereas the new trafficking law mandates sentences between five- and 15-years depending on the severity of the harm to the women.
Police officials and human rights workers acknowledge that the problem grew much worse with the war in Syria, which left many women vulnerable to the machinations of human traffickers. Not all of the women in the network were refugees, but came from dispossessed families in Syria. Still, one in five refugee households in Lebanon are headed by women, who are left vulnerable by having to care for their children and provide for them even though it is illegal for them to work. There are more than a million refugees from Syria in Lebanon, and two-thirds are women and children. Child workers are common in Beirut and the Bekaa valley, the agricultural hinterland.
“These women are completely destroyed by the fact they were in prostitution and that they were abused in a very extreme way,” said Ghada Jabbour, a co-founder and head of the anti-trafficking unit at Kafa, a feminist group working on issues of violence and exploitation of women and providing support to victims of such abuse.
Kafa has also trained members of the Lebanese police force on how to handle human trafficking cases.
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Jabbour said the psychological support would help the women address feelings of self-esteem and stigma as well as the scars of daily torture and violence and humiliation, as well as helping them to rebuild the ability to trust.
But she also called for a refinement of Lebanon’s human trafficking law and greater awareness among judges and law enforcement on how to apply the law. So far, there have been no sex trafficking convictions in Lebanon since the law was passed in late 2011.
Jabbour said she hoped the Chez Maurice case would act as a model for similar situations in the future, with women treated as victims rather than being on par with those who run any network.
But she said there would also have to be a cultural shift in the way Lebanese society looks at prostitution. Kafa is not in favour of legalising prostitution, saying it legitimises exploitation and the treatment of women as commodities. Instead, it advocates punishing human traffickers and sex buyers.
Though Lebanon is one of the more liberal Middle Eastern societies, domestic violence and gender inequality are still pervasive. A one-of-a-kind survey carried out by Kafa, which interviewed sex buyers in Lebanon, found that many thought that if prostitution was completely prohibited, rates of rape would increase, and so it was necessary to have a sub-class of women who would shield the rest of society from male sexuality. Most of the interviewees felt entitled to have sex whenever they pleased, and also believed that the prostitutes enjoyed having sex with them, on top of being reimbursed.
“Everything evolves around the sexuality of men,” she said. “We raise boys and men with the idea that it’s very normal to buy sex and to have sex whenever they want, not to control their sexuality.”
The State of Human Trafficking in California, 2012, Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California
California Proposition 64 https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_64,_Marijuana_Legalization_(2016).
Human Rights First http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/how-dismantle-business-human-tr...
Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States Human Rights Center UC Berkeley http://www.freetheslaves.net/wp content/uploads/2015/03/Hidden-Slaves.pdf
Lakireddy Bali Reddy
Lakireddy Bali Reddy (Telugu: లకిరెడ్డి బాలి రెడ్డి; born May 1937) is a landlord, convicted felon, and chairman of the Lakireddy Balireddy College of Engineering. Reddy exploited the Indian caste system to traffic young Indian women and girls to Berkeley, California. From 1986–1999, he and his family members and associates forced them into servitude and sexual slavery.
Reddy came to the United States in 1960 to study engineering at theUniversity of California, Berkeley. By 1975, Reddy had opened a successfulIndian cuisine restaurant in downtown Berkeley. He used its profits to purchase over 1,000 run-down apartment buildings, making him, by 2000, the largest and wealthiest landlord in the city (other than the University of California), with a worth estimated at US$69 million.
In 2000, Reddy was indicted by the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California who charged him with sex trafficking, visa fraud, and tax code violations following a lengthy investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, and the Berkeley Police Department...
"The Preacher and the Slave"
First published in the Jul 6, 1911 edition of the Industrial Worker "Little Red Songbook" as "Long Haired Preachers,", credited to F. B. Brechler (subsequently credited to Joe Hill in Mar 6, 1913 fifth edition
Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.
The starvation army they play,
They sing and they clap and they pray
'Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:
Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
They holler, they jump and they shout.
Give your money to Jesus they say,
He will cure all diseases today.
If you fight hard for children and wife --
Try to get something good in this life --
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.
Workingmen of all countries, unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight;
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:
You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye.