Most of us wonder about the rate at which summer proceeds.

I have yet to hear a believable explanation for the speedy passing of summer. And here we are two weeks into September! What has happened to Labor Day, school starting, and the first smells of autumn? They went by as hurriedly as the first dry leaves of autumn on a windy day.

As always, this past Labor Day reminded me of Caesar Chavez’s quote, “It is never about grapes and lettuce. It is always about people”. Chavez was an American labor rights leader and social activist. He dedicated his life to improving farm laborers’ working and living conditions. I wonder what he would suggest being the best option for fighting the advancement of exploitation of workers as enslaved people through human labor trafficking networks.

What is labor trafficking? The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) defines labor trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the subjection of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”

There are several categories of labor trafficking.

Forced Labor This is when all work or services are extracted of any person under the menace of penalty and for which that person has not offered himself voluntarily.

Debt Bondage From the US Dept of State (2017) defines this as including traffickers or recruiters who unlawfully exploit an initial debt, whether assumed knowingly or not, as a term of employment. For example, in some countries, children are taken from parents to be used as labor for building roads, and buildings, working on farms, supposedly to pay off the parent’s debt. Instead, what usually happens is additional fees are added to the debt, which makes it impossible to pay fully.

Child Labor Trafficking This category includes all children subjected to all slavery or practices similar to slavery and consists of buying and selling children for debt bondage, forced labor, prostitution, and other work harmful to the child’s health, safety, or morals. (ILO, Convention 138,182) Examples include but are not limited to working on farms, fishing boats, domestic help, factories, and performing sexual acts.

Young boy selling flowers on street

Domestic Servitude Usually, these victims work in private residences. They are not free to leave and, if paid, are underpaid, threatened, and otherwise abused. Commonly, foster children and homeless teens are victimized as caregivers or domestic services in exchange for a place to sleep and food to eat. These victims receive little attention as they are often unaware they are being exploited or know and are afraid of losing shelter and food if they report their circumstances.

Human Smuggling While related to human trafficking, the issues are different. Smuggling involves a crime against a country’s sovereignty, illegal border crossing, and transportation to a destination. However, a smuggler may smuggle people from one country to another with the promise of work and residence. When they arrive in the new country, they are channeled to traffickers. Then they are not allowed freedom due to psychological influence, debt bondage, or their credentials are stolen, and they fear being deported or imprisoned.

If you suspect Human Trafficking, call the US National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Add it to your phone’s contact list. Or locate your country’s trafficking hotline number.