You are hereCampaign for America's Future: Source of Missing Jobs in America Found: Forced Laborers

Campaign for America's Future: Source of Missing Jobs in America Found: Forced Laborers

-By Maryam Al-Zoubi

June 21, 2011- With unemployment at a near historic high in the United States, could you imagine any American company bringing in foreign workers to work for them below the minimum wage and with no benefits? Most people would say no. But can you imagine those same Americans forcing foreign workers to stay here, with no pay, and constant abuse? That is actually happening in this country today.

Forced labor is a real phenomenon in the United States agriculture business. Without awareness and investigation into where our supplies come from and who businesses are hiring, the American people become unwitting complicit supporters of labor trafficking

Monday June 13th, in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) held a Senate committee hearing and panel discussion to review the success and needed improvements of the law. Smith is chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees international human rights and co-chairman of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus. Several leaders in the fight against human trafficking were invited to testify: the main witness, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. State Department; Deborah Cundy, Vice President of Carlson Companies; Chai Ling, founder of All Girls Allowed; Nancy Rivard, President and founder of Airline Ambassadors International; Philip Kowalcyzk, President of The Body Shop; Kevin Bales, co-founder and President, Free the Slaves, and; David Abramowitz of Humanity United.

During the testimony of Ambassador CdeBaca, Smith asked a pointed question about labor trafficking in the United States. He inquired if the elimination of broker fees would help stop labor trafficking. Brokers, according the Verité Initiative, are “intermediaries who facilitate employment for migrant workers,” often in legal methods. However, research by the Verité Initiative shows that brokerage fees can “range from USD 3,000-27,000 among workers coming in legally on H-2A and H-2B guest worker visas.” In 2008, 173,103 guest workers were admitted on H-2A visas, which are for agricultural work. The main states receiving these workers were: Arkansas; California; Louisiana; Florida; Georgia; Kentucky; New York and; North Carolina. The other main industry for guest workers who came on the H-2B non-agricultural visa is Forestry. 104,618 H-2B visas were granted in 2008.

Even without trafficking, the guest worker visas do not provide “adequate protections for work, health, and housing; legalizing the payment of sub-minimum wages; and – because workers are, for practical purposes, bound to work for one or more employers – entrapping workers at specified work sites for the duration of their stay in the United States”

Ambassador CdeBaca testified that eliminating broker fees from the guest worker visa process is one of the many steps the United States government can take to stop the enslavement of foreign workers in the United States. He explained how the brokers will often confiscate the passport of the worker until they pay of their travel and brokerage debt, leading to workers essentially renting themselves out to their employers. 



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