The Society for the
Study of Social Issues


Event Report: U.S. Congressional Hearing on
Labor Trafficking

On May 23, 2011 the U.S. Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe  held a hearing titled Labor Trafficking in Troubled Economic Times: Protecting American Jobs and Migrant Human Rights. The Chairman of the committee, Representative Chris Smith, opened the hearing by noting that human trafficking is a large problem for our society today and has been made worse with the downturn in the economy. In 1998 Rep. Smith introduced the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA), which was signed into law in 2000. Provisions of this Act are set to expire at the end of September and the hearing could help to make the TVPRA even more effective.

The first witness to give their testimony was Ambassador Luis C. deBaca, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State. Ambassador deBaca began by praising the Department of Labor’s recent implementation of rules, such as the agreement to ensure that workers from Mexico are informed of the labor rights through their consular offices, that give more protection for Temporary Agricultural Employment H-2A Aliens in the United States. He also mentioned California’s recently enacted law, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, which requires large retailers and manufacturers that do business in California to make public whatever efforts they have taken to eliminate human trafficking from their supply chains. Despite the steps being taken, Ambassador deBaca noted that estimates of the total number of trafficking victims worldwide are as high as 27 million individuals. He closed by saying some of the best ways to reduce trafficking are for consumers, including the U.S. government, to curb demand for forced labor and to continue to prosecute and punish human traffickers.

Neha Misra, Senior Specialist on Human Trafficking and Migrant Worker Programs, the Solidarity Center, also gave recommendations on what should be included in legislation, such as the 2011 Reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. She offered five recommendations to the committee, the first being the need to eliminate the ability of foreign labor contractors, or their agents or employers, to assess any fees to a worker for a foreign labor contract. Second, foreign labor contractors and employers should be required to disclose the full conditions of their work in writing, in both English and the language of the worker being recruited. Third, the Department of Labor should administer a process for foreign labor contractors to obtain a certificate of registration. Fourth, the Department of Labor needs to be able to investigate complaints made against the employers or contractors. Finally, workers should be protected from any retaliation and employers must be held accountable for the actions of the foreign labor contractors that they hire.

Actress Julia Ormond, founder of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking (ASSET), discussed what she learned from her role in helping the California legislature pass the previously mentioned California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. Ms. Ormond said the law gives consumers the power to choose to support business that are creating best practices and, with their purchasing power encourage businesses to evaluate their supply chains. Ms. Ormond was asked by Representative Steve Cohen who opposed the California law. She answered by stating that not a single business in California supported the law. Ms. Ormond finished by saying, “I’m asked if this is a job-killer, and I don’t think it is. I think it’s a lifesaver.”

For a full transcript of this hearing, click here.

For more information on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, click here

To visit the website of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, click here.

For more information on ASSET, click here.

Photos from the hearing:

Angel Colón Rivera, SPSSI James Marshall Public Policy Scholar, greets
Congressional members of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

Witnesses Julia Ormond, Neha Misra, and Nancy Donaldson testify before the
Congressional Committee.

SPSSI interns Kesha Lee, Amy Chang, and Elliot Fox at the Congressional hearing.

Video of the full hearing:


Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin