The thought of human trafficking usually stirs up images of young girls being targeted for sex. However, people forget that trafficking is not only present in the sex industry. Laborers face exploitation whether they work in agriculture, fashion, construction, domestic work, or any other sector. In particular, labor trafficking is rampant in the fashion industry at every level. Whether it concerns plucking cotton or working in a factory, workers often have their safety, fair wages, and legal rights compromised. In Guatemala especially, many workers do not know their rights and are also poor, which makes them vulnerable to this exploitation.
While trafficking can manifest itself into every product or service we pay for, consumers have a role in ending this exploitation. They can boycott brands that lack sufficient safety and/or transparency standards, and they can also bring awareness to legislation that may combat trafficking regionally, nationally, and internationally. They can also do their own research and support brands that prioritize a quality work for their employees, using resources such as The Good Shopping Guide.
In addition to fashion, individuals working in agriculture are at a high risk of being trafficked. Desperation in the agricultural industry often results in exploitation and low-quality working conditions. Workers may be forced to perform tasks in the hot sun without breaks, which may result in heatstroke, which is the number one cause of work-related death for farmworkers. They may also work with dangerous pesticides, and they can contract disease if they are not properly equipped with tools that guarantee their safety. Immigrant workers in particular are more vulnerable, and employers may use this to their advantage. They may steal their passports, give them unsanitary housing, verbally or physically abuse them, and threaten their employees, which is especially effective for illegal immigrant workers. According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, children in Guatemala are highly vulnerable to forced labor, often working in agriculture, domestic work, and the food service industry. Rampant poverty and the culture of child work to fulfill familial duties often creates complications in combating child labor trafficking.
Meet Team J.A.D.E.
Rachel Labi is a college freshman and her passion for the eradication of labor trafficking has inspired her to study management to later become an executive in an organization dedicated to anti-trafficking. She has written in The Policy Circle and the Indianapolis Recorder, and she has spoken about youth initiative at the New America Inside Out Event. In October 2020, Rachel joined 15 other YES Fellows as a presenter at a Youth Policy Summit co-hosted by VOICES and the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana.