December 13, 2019
Imagine, says Northeastern assistant professor Shawn Bhimani, the plight of a migrant worker who cannot find work.
“Come work for me,” a prospective employer says to the worker. “I’ll pay you $14 an hour.”
So begins an ugly cycle of exploitation. The worker is transported to a farm, where her actual salary is reduced to, say, $8 per hour. Then she learns that most or all of her salary is being seized by the employer to pay for her airfare as well as her rent. And she worries about complaining to law enforcement because her employer has confiscated her passport.
This is one of the many scenarios that three Northeastern professors will be researching as part of an investigation of human trafficking in U.S. agriculture. They intend to map and evaluate the human supply chains to determine the key areas of vulnerability, with the goal of engineering ways to disrupt those trafficking systems, over the course of a three-year study. They hope to create models of disruption that can be applied to other sectors of human trafficking, which is estimated to victimize more than 24 million people worldwide.
“There is a fallacy that trafficking is happening in some foreign place,” says Bhimani, a visiting assistant professor in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “It’s happening in our local areas, across our country, across the world. And we are all connected to it.”
Studies of human trafficking tend to focus on its products and services—including food, clothes, and sex. But the Northeastern researchers are taking a different approach by focusing on the human supply chain and those who are victimized by it.
“We’re kind of flipping it and looking at the other side,” says Kayse Maass, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering. “We’re saying, how did the human beings get from the point of wherever they’re originating to the point of exploitation? And how do we break the supply chain?”
Their research, funded by a $574,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate human trafficking in American agriculture.
To read the full story by Ian Thomsen on News@Northeastern: Click Here
April 8, 2019
Retail sellers of agricultural products, regardless of where the product originated, who do business in Washington and have a worldwide gross receipt of more than $200 million, would be required to disclose violations of employment-related laws, incidents of slavery, peonage or working to payback debt, and human trafficking, under proposed legislation.
Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D- Seattle, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5693, which passed from the Labor and Commerce Committee to the Senate Rules Committee on Feb. 21.
“It’s my job, I believe, as a consumer to make sure that I’m asking the hard questions around and supporting industry to be able to help us eradicate slavery and to make sure that people are having their human rights protected and respected,” Saldaña said. “This is really a step in that direction.”
Indira Trejo, the global impact coordinator for United Farm Workers, testified in front of the labor and commerce committee in support of the bill.
“I have learned that globally farm workers face many of the same issues, around the world,” Trejo said. “Farm workers risk being seen as disposable and invisible, stripped of their human dignity and worth.”
Washingtonians want to know when a worker involved in the agricultural process is being treated unfairly, Trejo said.
Carolyn Logue of the Washington Food Industry Association testified in opposition to the bill.
“We think what this will do is create a paperwork nightmare with significant liabilities for a lot of our businesses without dealing really effectively and efficiently with the very real problem of human trafficking and the other problems listed here,” Logue said.
Agricultural product is defined in the bill as cocoa, dairy, coffee, sugar and fruit products. The bill also defines what agricultural products do not mean, which is wheat, potato, onions, asparagus or other vegetable products.
Tom Davis with the Washington Farm Bureau noted that 95 percent of the farms in the state are family farms and that the “accusations” made in this bill towards them are “outrageous.”
“It presupposes that slavery, peonage and human trafficking are taking place on our family farms,” Davis said.
To read the full story by Emma Epperly on Nisqually Valley News: Click Here