COMMISSION ON SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE: U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION
LABOR TRAFFICKING IN TROUBLED ECONOMIC TIMES: PROTECTING AMERICAN JOBS AND
MIGRANT HUMAN RIGHTS
LUIS C. DEBACA
NANCY A. DONALDSON
THE HEARING WAS HELD FROM 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM IN 2172 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE
BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C., REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ), CHAIRMAN, CSCE,
MONDAY, MAY 23, 2011
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): The commission will come to order.
And I want to welcome all of you to today’s hearing, part of the Helsinki
Commission’s ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking in all of its aspects,
which go back to June of 1999 when I chaired the first commission hearing on
human trafficking – really a tradition that continued under my good friend and
colleague, Commissioner Cardin, when he was chairman and now co-chair. This
has been a bipartisan effort from the beginning, and it continues to this day.
Today our attention turns to labor trafficking, a modern-day form of slavery,
exacerbated by the global economic downturn. As with all forms of trafficking
we must never lose sight of the victim, the truly human face of people caught
up unwittingly in this multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise. Having just
participated in a conference entitled “Building Bridges of Freedom:
Public-Private Partnerships to End Modern-Day Slavery,” I am acutely aware that
in order to be successful in combating the scourge of human trafficking, we
must strengthen the cooperation between governments and the private sector,
particularly with regards to labor trafficking.
Each year, tens of thousands of victims are trafficked into the United States
from throughout the world. The United States has been at the forefront of
efforts to combat human trafficking in all of its forms, including labor
trafficking, following adoption of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of
Our government has undertaken the vast challenge of tracking slavery around the
world. We have developed strategic reporting tools such as the Trafficking in
Persons Report, the list of goods produced with child and forced labor, and the
findings on the worst forms of child labor. And the world has taken notice.
I would note parenthetically, when I first introduced the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act in 1998, a landmark bill that was signed into law two years
later in 2000, the legislation was met with a wall of skepticism and outright
opposition. People both inside of government and out thought the bold new
strategy that included sheltering, asylum and other protections for the
victims, long jail sentences and asset confiscation for the traffickers and
tough sanctions for governments that failed to meet minimum standards was
merely a solution in search of a problem.
I vividly recall raising the trafficking issue at a gathering of
parliamentarians meeting in St. Petersburg in Russia in 1999 and was met with a
similar reaction. Matter of fact, the Russians – several on their delegation
thought that somehow we were seeking to embarrass them. And I remember the
Ukrainian representative very dismissively – and I remember – Ben, you would
remember that – said, but they’re just prostitutes, as if somehow they were
less than human. It was a – it was really a very disturbing spectacle.
But the next year at the Bucharest OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, not only did we
have virtually every one of the delegations joining in on the parliamentary
supplementary item, as we called it, but the Russians spoke out, and the head
of the Duma actually gave a speech in favor of the parliamentary supplemental
item combating human trafficking.
As the special rep for human trafficking in the parliamentary assembly for the
OSCE, I know full well considerable progress has been made. I remain deeply
concerned that of the 56 OSCE participating states, 20 will rank as Tier 2,
with another eight placed on the Tier 2 Watch List.
Our efforts could not have been possible both within the OSCE as well as here
in the United States without the invaluable contribution of civil society, who
have helped us write the laws and, frankly, all subsequent iterations of the
TPVA and other similar bills around the world.
Last week, we heard Deb Cundy of the Carlson Companies, which manages numerous
hotel chains including the Radisson and Country Inns and Suites, explain how
their employees were trained to spot potential trafficking victims and how that
employee should notify law enforcement. Christopher Davis of The Body Shop
International detailed the extraordinary education and awareness program that
they have initiated, coupled with a petition drive that has garnered
approximately 6 million signatures worldwide.
As we reauthorize certain sections of the act – obviously some of the act, some
provisions, are permanent law; others need to be reauthorized, and they expire
in the end of September – civil society representatives have flooded my office
and, I’m sure, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca’s office, who was at Rome at that
conference and did a magnificent job, with some thoughts as to what they think
ought to be done to improve and make more efficacious our policy vis-à-vis
As we all know, traffickers prey upon those in poverty and those lacking even
the prospect of a job. I have visited trafficking victims’ shelters in
countries throughout the world, including Russia, Nigeria, Peru, Romania, D.R.
Congo, Ethiopia, Brazil, Bosnia, Italy and elsewhere. I’ve seen the faces – as
have so many of you who will testify and so many in the audience, and certainly
members of our commission – seen those faces of the victims – women and
children and men – robbed of their inherent dignity.
In Moldova, Catholic Relief Services documented that high school aged girls
were disappearing, literally disappearing into human trafficking in large part
due to the extreme lack of job opportunities in that country. CRS created the
Moldova Employment and Training Alliance, which encourage private sector
companies to expand in rural villages. And certainly, that has made a huge
difference in that country.
As a destination country, we must recognize that here in our own – very own
backyard, thousands of people are trafficked from all over the world to work on
our farms, in our hotels, our restaurants and even to serve as domestic
workers. Well, even more shocking is that many of these labor migrants enter
the country legally through their own immigration system, deceived by their
traffickers who sold them a dream.
Indeed, this afternoon we will focus on various aspects of labor trafficking,
including abusive and illegal business practices, as well as ways to better
educate potential migrants of their rights. Among other issues to be
considered will be increased education and accountability, foreign labor
recruiting practices and enhancing supply-chain transparency. Labor
trafficking remains the most prevalent form of human trafficking in the United
U.S. funding for anti-trafficking efforts abroad have brought together labor
inspectors, police, prosecutors, NGOs and faith-based organizations.
Obviously, many challenges remain. So it falls to us and likeminded people of
goodwill everywhere to meet those challenges head-on and wage an unceasing
campaign to eradicate human trafficking from the face of the earth.
Today we are joined by Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, director of the State
Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. He is joined
by Dr. Gabriela Lemus, the Department of Labor’s labor representative to the
Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons.
On our second panel, we will hear from the director of the Washington Office of
the International Labor Organization, Ms. Nancy Donaldson; Ms. Neha Misra,
special – specialist on migration and human trafficking for the Solidarity
Center; and we have a very special guest in actress and activist Julia Ormond,
founder of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking – a very talented
actress and a tireless humanitarian activist who was absolutely instrumental in
getting landmark legislation passed in California on – to combat labor
trafficking and to figure out the supply systems of companies through better
transparency and by working with those companies. So we will hear from that
second panel after we hear from our very distinguished first panel.
I’d like to yield to a good friend and colleague, Mr. Cardin, co-chairman of
SENATOR BENJAMIN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, to Chairman Smith, thank you very much
for arranging this hearing. I think it’s an extremely important subject. I
would ask that my written opening statement be made part of the record.
REP. SMITH: Without objection.
SEN. CARDIN: And I will just comment briefly. It’s with great pride that the
Helsinki Commission takes on dealing with the issue of trafficking, because it
was this commission that first raised these issues. And in the course of that,
we conducted hearings; we sponsored resolutions at the parliamentary assemblies
in order to get more international focus on modern-day slavery. We took a
pretty tough stand. And Chairman Smith’s right. Some of the initial reactions
were less than sympathetic.
But we persisted. And with the support of our delegation to Vienna, the United
States had a united position to do everything we could to rid our societies of
trafficking, the form of modern-day slavery. Then the permanent council
started to act, and we started to get some best practices shared by other
states. With the legislature and executive working in tandem, we were able to
make significant progress.
I remember visiting some of the shelters, where we visited with the victims and
were able to put a spotlight on the issue that those that are trafficked are
not criminals but they’re victims. And law enforcement needs to conduct its
affairs mindful of who the real criminals are. And we made more progress and
were able to get special representatives, both in the parliamentary assembly –
and, as you know, our chairman, Chairman Smith, is that special representative
– and in the permanent council of the OSCE.
So we’ve made progress. We have a game plan today to deal with trafficking.
And the United States has shown tremendous leadership in the passage of not
only our domestic laws, which are very strong, but also the reports that are
now required to be filed. These reports, I can tell you, have major impact –
as I’m sure Chairman Smith would agree. When ambassadors visit our office,
that’s one of the first issues they’ll talk to us about, because they all want
to – they don’t want to be listed as a watch state.
Our primary focus has been on sexual exploitation. And I think that reason is
somewhat self-obvious. It’s a very serious situation around the globe, and we
were able to make significant progress. Labor exploitation’s a little bit more
complicated, because there’s an economic issue here that has some legitimacy –
at least people think there’s some legitimacy because of open borders and
bringing in labor to help in your country.
I want to applaud Chairman Smith for holding this hearing so that we can take a
look at trafficking related to labor issues, particularly in these very
difficult economic times.
I want to point out that debt bondage for migration costs can amount to
involuntary servitude or slavery. And we need to take a look at how these
matters are being financed, because they are being used to deny people their
basic human rights. I want to congratulate the Obama administration for taking
this issue of labor seriously and the way that the Obama administration has
coordinated the work within the Department of State and the Department of
Commerce. That’s what you need to do. This is a matter that involves both of
those agencies. And I know they’re working closely together.
This is a very timely hearing. For Congress, shortly we’ll be looking at the
reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. And in that act, I
note that in 2008, in a matter that I helped draft, we put into that law
additional tools for our consulate officers to be able to look at those who are
requesting visas to come into the United States. I’ll be interested in hearing
from our witnesses today whether those efforts are paying off. There’s
training requirements that consular officers be able to identify circumstances
that look like they’re trafficking. How has that in fact worked? Do we need
to expand that training to other border officers and law enforcement officers?
These are issues that I think we need to take a look at as we move forward to
the reauthorization practices.
Our bottom line is, we want to see what other countries are doing. We can
learn from best practices of other countries in dealing with these issues. And
I think we need to share the success stories so that we can, in fact, at long
last get rid of these labor abuses. Working together, we can continue to make
progress that we’ve made in the past so that we can eliminate all forms of
modern-day slavery. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.
REP. SMITH: Thank you, Chairman Cardin. (I’d like ?) to yield to chairman of
the Energy and Commerce Health Committee, a commissioner on our Helsinki
Commission for many years, Joe Pitts.
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPH PITTS (R-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And as an
original co-sponsor of the Trafficking in Persons Law and with you in the OSCE,
putting forth these issues, I thank you for scheduling this hearing entitled
“Labor Trafficking in Troubled Economic Times: Protecting American Jobs and
Migrant Human Rights.” The issues involved in the exploitation of migrant
workers, broad and on American soil, are of grave concern to the OSCE. In the
wake of a global recession, it is important that we continue our focus on human
trafficking and migrant worker populations now more than ever.
While the United States has taken a lead on confronting and combating human
trafficking, we must do everything we can to end the practice. And this
includes looking at ways to verify worker practices and conditions. We must
find better ways at enforcing our own policies. Recent high-profile cases of
violations have highlighted the need for a systemic verification process, one
that is multilateral, including the help of foreign governments and
organizations, and one that verifies from the bottom up, leaving no room for
abuse throughout the supply chain.
So, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for holding this important hearing. I look
forward to hearing the ideas from our witnesses here today and hope that we can
find concrete solutions to dealing with the problem of labor exploitation here
in the United States. And I yield back.
REP. SMITH: Commissioner Pitts, thank you very much. I’d like to now yield to
a new member but very active member, Christopher (sic) Cohen.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s a pleasure
to be here, and I’m going to look forward to listening to the testimony.
Ambassador de Baca was a counsel to the Judiciary Committee, which I serve on,
and has quite an honorable and distinguished record. Good to see you again in
your position. And Ms. Lemus has been at some of the greatest universities in
this country, including the University of Memphis. So it’s good to have a
Memphis denizen, even if a short tenure with us today.
This is an important issue. Slavery (in ?) any component is something we need
to fight, and it needs to be something we do in a bipartisan fashion, because
freedom is the bottom line, you know. You know, there’s nothing left to lose.
And we had a history in our country of slavery. And sometimes we think of
slavery simply as that form of the most heinous, direct, main line of slavery.
But there are other forms. There are temporary forms. There are forms of –
that we have, and we need to combat them and make employers just as liable for
looking the other way, maybe not knowingly, but looking the other way when
they’re beneficiaries of slave labor. And we know that happens in this country
and that whether they are landlords who have leased to people who are involved
in labor trafficking, whether they are along the chain – I know we have
products, and the California law goes along the chain to make people be aware
that they will not be involved, and any producer of raw materials in the final
product if they’re involved in the slave trade, that they won’t be allowed.
They’ll be – I guess there’ll be sanctions in the California law. I’d hope so.
And that’s what there should be. We have that for product. I know if you buy
a guitar and it’s got any kind of a wood product in it that’s on the endangered
list, you get in trouble for the final product. We should have the same thing.
If wood is important, which it is in Brazil and the rainforests and all, it
should be with human beings even more so.
I’m Jewish. And Passover, which is our most – my favorite holiday, not just
because of the food but because of the lesson that we were in bondage and that
we should always be cognizant of any people who were in bondage. And that’s
just not building pyramids or doing cotton. But that’s the folks we’re going
to talk about here today. And the Judeo-Christian ethos which we are all a
product of needs to be adhered to, and we need to pass the most rigorous and
strong laws that we can to protect everyone.
So with that, I thank the chairman for scheduling this committee meeting. I
look forward to your testimony. I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Cohen, thank you very much. And quoting Janis Joplin there?
Let me just introduce our very distinguished panelists beginning with
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large of the Office to Monitor and
Combat Trafficking in Persons. In May of 2009, he was appointed by President
Obama to coordinate U.S. government activities in the global fight against
contemporary forms of slavery. He serves as senior adviser to the secretary,
and directs the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in
Persons was – which, as we all know, assesses global trends, provides training
and technical assistance and advocates for an end to slavery. Ambassador
CdeBaca formally served as counsel, as Commissioner Cohen just said, to the
House Committee on the Judiciary. And at the Justice Department, he is one of
the most country – of our country’s most decorated federal prosecutors, leading
the investigation and prosecution of cases involving money laundering,
organized crime, alien smuggling, official misconduct, hate crimes and of
course human trafficking. He was responsible for the conviction of dozens of
abusive pimps and employers, and helped to liberate hundreds of victims from
Then we’ll hear from Dr. Gabriela Lemus, who was appointed senior adviser and
director of the Office of Public Engagement at the Department of Labor in July
of 2009. She represents the DOL at the Senior Policy Operating Group in
Trafficking in Persons, the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, and
various interagency working groups on immigration policy. Prior to her
appointment, she was the first woman to hold the position of executive director
at the Labor Counsel for Latin America’s advancement, from 2007 to ’09, as well
as the first woman to chair the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda from 2008
to ’9. She served a three year – three year terms on the advisory boards of
both the Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA, and the U.S. Labor
Education in the Americas Project from 2006 to 2009.
Mr. Ambassador, please proceed as you would – as you would like.
LUIS C. DEBACA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank
you for the opportunity to shed a light on the problem of labor trafficking
both here in the United States and abroad. As you have mentioned, the OSCE and
the Helsinki Commission in particular has led on this issue, as on many others.
In Rome last week at the conference that was dealing with some of these issues,
especially issues of supply chain, the words of one of our panelists from
Rabbis for Human Rights North America reminded me and suggested what you have
said, Mr. Cohen, which is that we are in some ways in the 10th year of this
fight since the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. But as the
Western world, as people of faith and as those who reflect the Judeo-Christian
values, that we are in year 3,500 of this fight, and we should be measured on
it in that sense.
And unfortunately, 3,500 years later, estimates on the total number of
trafficking victims in the world are as high as 27 million. We know that the
United States is a major destination, but we don’t know how many victims of
labor trafficking there are specifically in this country, because it’s a hidden
crime. Victims are often afraid to come forward, or unable, sometimes because
they fear the very officers that could help them.
But the cases that have been uncovered tell us some things. We know that labor
trafficking is a problem that affects men, women and children alike. Labor
trafficking victims often suffer ongoing sexual abuse, as well as threats of
physical violence, and that the cases now are uncomfortably identical to cases
that the United States prosecuted in sharecropping in the 1930s, the railroad
gangs of the turn of the century, or the padroni child begging cases of the
Labor trafficking victims today are lured with the same types of promises – a
good job and a better life – only to be trapped through their specific
vulnerabilities. For foreign workers, that’s often lack of documents, language
or familiarity with their rights here in America. For United States citizens,
it’s often homelessness, mental illness or addiction. Whatever the hook that
the traffickers use, we must bring this cycle to an end once and for all.
As you know, the United States follows a(n) expansive definition of human
trafficking that encompasses all of the actions in reducing a person or holding
them in a condition of servitude, and so that means that the recruiter who
feeds the victim into the system, and the end user who knowingly or recklessly
profits from the abuse, are properly as guilty as the employer who enslaves the
victim. Our response is based on the internationally recognized “3P” paradigm:
prosecution, protection and prevention. All of these victims are entitled to
rehabilitation, and to see their abusers brought to justice.
We have seen progress over the last decade. And across government, we are ever
more united in this struggle. More cases are being done both federally and at
the state level than ever before. And while victim identifications at time
stress and strain our victim services response, NGOs and frontline law
enforcement work to ensure a safety net when these people are found.
In particular, I’d like to praise my colleagues at the Department of Labor for
their work both at home and abroad. In the U.S. for instance, they’ve
implemented a rule that strengthens protections for a particularly vulnerable
group, the temporary H-2A agricultural visa holders. My colleague Dr. Lemus
will be able to highlight this and other actions that Secretary Solis has taken
to confront this scourge.
But to ensure that these efforts do not fizzle out as they have at other points
throughout the last 150 years here in America, we need to institutionalize our
capacity, maintain our resources and ensure innovation across the whole of
government. And while every aspect can and must be addressed, I’d like to
highlight one of the most innovative things that’s happening, and that is
It’s basic economics that without demand, there will be no supply. So we’re
looking to engage on this aspect in both forced labor and sex trafficking
alike. The so-called sex industry is not a valid form of labor, and it poses
its own unique challenges. But there are commonalities in these areas, most
notably the need to hold everyone accountable and to make the cultural change
necessary that undercuts the demand for what the traffickers are using cruelty
Forced labor is prevalent in the production of a wide range of raw materials
that we all come in contact, and probably came into contact at some point
today, from cotton, chocolate, coffee, steel, rubber, tin. Even reputable
corporate citizens can profit from the abuse.
So, as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, the cutting edge of anti-trafficking work
is demanding that companies focus their attentions beyond the places where
their products are manufactured and, instead, look at the source of their human
capital, the methods of recruitment, where the raw materials are collected,
harvested or mined. Effective supply chain monitoring means going all the way
down to that level. We think that such research will enhance our understanding
of supply and demand factors that affect those workers whose labor contributes
to the downstream profits. The aim is to find trafficking where it occurs, and
that this knowledge will allow companies to join the Body Shop and Carlson
Companies and others in running their business in a manner consistent with the
Removing the taint of slavery is better for everyone. Take for instance what’s
been reported from the berry patches of Sweden and Finland, Asian guest workers
so abused that they were reduced to surviving on a soup made of whatever
grasses they could gather and whatever crows they could shoot. If a consumer
knew the suffering of the hands that had picked those berries, we would hope
that they would have been moved to act.
A conference last winter produced the Luxor Implementation Guidelines to the
U.N.’s Athens Ethical principles, which seek to move beyond aspirational
statements to the development of standard operating procedures, moving beyond
principles to practice and implementation. And to date, nearly 600 companies
have adopted those guidelines. That represents the future of the fight against
But of course, government’s role will remain central. Our counterparts in
Europe have increasingly recognized this problem which all too often has been
confused as low-level labor abuses of migrant workers. Today, with the
leadership of the OSCE and the EU anti-trafficking directive, cases are on the
rise. Countries with active rapporteurs, such as Eva Biaudet, who used to be
at the OSCE’s anti-trafficking unit, are seeing increases in trafficking
prosecutions. As in the United States, Europe has seen cases in factories,
hotels, janitorial, agriculture, forestry, landscaping and domestic service.
Here in the United States, the state of California recently enacted the law
that you mentioned, Mr. Chairman. And we’re looking forward not only to see
how that law works in the real world, but also to hear from Julia Ormond who,
without this – her activities, the legislation would never have been possible.
We thank her for her vision and for her hard work in getting that law passed.
And we’re trying to, and we’re beginning to, apply those standards to
ourselves. Governments are some of the largest consumers in the world, and the
United States government may be one of the largest. We can use our leverage as
consumers to curb the demand for forced labor. We’ve taken steps in the U.S.
government procurement and contracting policies to protect against human
trafficking. EEOC and the Department of Homeland Security, through this bog
(ph), are co-chairing a working group on implementation of the Federal
Acquisition Regulation to combat modern slavery and contributing factors like
the demand for commercial sex. And we will make sure that we work closely with
this committee and with each of you individually as we start getting the
recommendations back on how to best address the government’s purchasing to make
sure that we have, as we (ask/act ?) of others, a slavery-free footprint.
We’re at a moment in the modern abolitionist movement when we need to ask, what
are the next steps? And over the last decade, the important tools have been
put in place. We have before us now the long, hard road of implementation and
institutionalization. And we believe that with the engagement of dedicated
lawmakers and the commitment of the U.S. government, the next 10 years, both
here at the OSCE and abroad, will be a decade of delivering on that which we
promised almost 150 years ago with the issuance of the Emancipation
Proclamation. I look forward to working with you as we continue to deliver on
that promise, and we appreciate your work.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for your testimony and your
I’d like to now recognize Ms. Lemus.
GABRIELA LEMUS: Thank you. Chairman Smith, Co-Chairman Cardin and
distinguished members of the commission, on behalf of the Department of Labor
and Secretary Solis, I thank you for the opportunity to discuss the
department’s efforts to combat human trafficking both domestically and
Under the secretary’s leadership, the Wage and Hour Division, the Bureau of
International Labor Affairs and the Employment and Training Administration work
collaboratively to ensure that the department uses all available tools in the
most efficient and effective manner to protect these vulnerable populations. I
am pleased to report to the commission our efforts.
The Wage and Hour Division enforces some of the nation’s most comprehensive
federal labor laws, allowing the agency to have a daily presence in American
workplaces. While Wage and Hour does not have responsibility to investigate
trafficking directly, many of its investigations take place in industry marked
by workers who are vulnerable to trafficking. This means that Wage and Hour
division is often the first federal agency to make contact with the workers who
may have been trafficked or maybe otherwise employed under abusive conditions
in violation of the law.
Because of its focus on civil enforcement, criminal activity found in the
workplace by Wage and Hour investigators may be referred to an appropriate
authority as part of the standard Wage and Hour procedure. After a referral is
made, the agency’s assistance may be requested to compute back wages to ensure
restitution on behalf of victims of trafficking, and to assess penalties
against their employer. Additionally, in its role of investigating workplace
laws, the Department of Labor may detect evidence that a worker is a victim of
certain criminal activity, including trafficking, that may qualify the worker
for U nonimmigrant status.
In April 2011, the department announced protocols to complete a certification
that the individual petitioning for U nonimmigrant status is a victim of a
qualifying crime and is, has been or is likely to be helpful in the
investigation or prosecution of that crime. The Wage and Hour Division is also
a member of the Federal Enforcement Working Group, along with the Justice
Department, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As part of the
working group, Wage and Hour is participating in the development and
implementation of the – a pilot federal anti-trafficking coordination team, the
ACT team program. The goal of the ACT team program is, one, to proactively
identify and assist human trafficking victims; two, to develop victim-centered
multidisciplinary human-trafficking investigations; and three, produce
high-impact human-trafficking prosecutions resulting in the conviction of
Finally, Wage and Hour also participates in several other outreach and
partnership activities to share information and leverage community-based
resources to more effectively inform workers about their rights and how they
can file Wage and Hour complaints. Such information can assist vulnerable
workers, including those who may have been trafficked.
Through the Department of International Labor Affairs, it also plays a critical
role in bringing to light the dark stories of human trafficking. In December
2010, the department released three new reports on child labor and forced
labor. Together, these reports demonstrate that from factories to farms,
abuses of fundamental human rights, including human trafficking, still person –
persist in the 21st century. These reports are, one, the list of goods
produced by child or forced labor; two, the list of products produced by forced
or indentured child labor; and three, the ninth annual findings on the worst
forms of child labor.
Since 1995, Congress has appropriated over $839 million to ILAB for programs to
combat international child labor. This funding has supported technical
assistance projects in more than 80 countries and reached approximately 1.5
million children at risk of, or engaged in, exploitative child labor. While
the department’s technical assistance programs include stand-alone trafficking
in persons projects, many also include multi-faceted projects to address other
worst forms of child labor in addition to trafficking, because many of the most
vulnerable workers in the United States are temporary foreign ag workers –
agricultural workers, excuse me.
ETA’s H-2A program is another significant locus in the department’s efforts to
combat trafficking. It is paramount that both workers in the United States and
temporary foreign workers are provided with appropriate and adequate worker
protections. In March 2010, a final ruling addressing the temporary
agricultural employment of H2A aliens in the United States became effective.
The final rule includes enhanced mechanisms for protecting H2A workers, who are
increasingly susceptible to the abuses of dishonest employers and their agents,
such as foreign labor recruiters. The 2010 final rule requires employers to
contractually forbid foreign labor contractors or recruiters engaged in
international recruitment of H2A workers from seeking or receiving payments
from such prospective employees. The 2010 H2A final rule enhanced enforcement
provisions allow the department to investigate and sanction employers and their
agents or attorneys where there is a violation of regulation provisions. These
penalties demonstrate the department’s commitment to strengthening the
necessary enforcement of a law that protects workers who are unlikely to
complain to government agencies about violations of their rights under the
In conclusion, in today’s global economy, workers in any country are vulnerable
to trafficking and labor rights abuses. The department’s innovative and
integrative programs help workers earn decent incomes, and prevent them from
being abused and exploited. This approach is a vital part of the
administration’s goal of ensuring that globalization provides benefits and
opportunities for workers everywhere, rather than triggering a race to the
Again, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I’m happy to answer any
questions the commission may have on the Department of Labor’s efforts to
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, Ms. Lemus.
Let me just begin the questioning, if I could. Both you, Mr. Ambassador and I
both referenced the important work that has been done by Julia Ormond as
founder of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking. And Senate Bill
657, which was signed into law, as you know, requires retail sellers and
manufacturers doing business in California to publicly disclose their efforts
to eradicate slavery – I’m reading from an op-ed written by Ms. Ormond – and
human trafficking from their direct supply chains. She points out that by
January 2012, companies impacted by the bill will have to post on their
websites what policies they have in place to ensure that their supply chains
are free of slavery and human trafficking.
And my question is, this is a model bill. Obviously there’s another 49 states
and the District of Columbia that could follow suit, and obviously the federal
government ought to be thinking along these lines as well. And I was wondering
what – your thoughts about the new law’s strengths and weaknesses, whether or
not – and, you know, I don’t think we should wait until January of 2012 to see
how well or poorly it’s working. I do think it looks to bring business along
for the ride, and so I would be interested in your thought on this piece of
MR. CDEBACA: Thank you, Mr. Smith. We are – we are very excited about the
California law. We think that this is a very good way that one of the states –
a state which, of course, if it were its own economy, certainly it would be
part of the G-20, if not maybe even the G-8. A state like California taking
these actions is going to have a ripple effect to countries and companies all
the way around the world, because anyone who is a multinational company worthy
of the name is doing business in California. One of the things that we see
from our perspective – and I think we all look forward to hearing from Ms.
Ormond and others on the specifics of the law – but what we’ve seen in talking
to California, a real hero against the fight against traffickers in the
attorney general’s office there, Kamala Harris, from her time when she was a
state’s attorney in San Francisco, but also Jerry Brown, who’s gone from
overseeing the training of law enforcement in California as the attorney
general, to go after trafficking in a new way over the last few years. His
office has been very supportive of this. So one of the things that we think is
going to happen is that all of us, as consumers, as the State Department’s
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, academics, et cetera, will be able to
access this information and start figuring out what the companies are doing.
I think the brilliance of this is that it doesn’t necessarily say – in our
understanding, it doesn’t necessarily say what the particular policy that
company has to have; they just have to have something. And we think that that
will then put it out to the marketplace of ideas. It’s an innovative way to
have a regulatory structure that actually brings the market to bear, so all of
us as consumers can look at these companies and make decisions, and put
pressure on them accordingly.
REP. SMITH: I appreciate that, thank you. Let me just ask: A common theme in
trafficking for labor exploitation is holding the victim in debt bondage
through recruitment and migration fees. Although the practice is illegal, and
some countries have prohibited under its – prohibited it under international
conventions, how can we do a better job in enforcing that part of this chain of
degradation? If you could –
MR. CDEBACA: One of the things Congress did on its, I think, first day back
after the end of the Civil War was pass a law that was called the “peonage” law
– because of the term for debt bondage in Spanish – that made it clear that the
protections of the Thirteenth Amendment didn’t just apply to the newly freed
African-American slaves in the South, but applied to people all over the
country. So this notion of debt bondage as being one of our core anti-slavery
ideals in the United States is key to our efforts.
One of the things that we’ve seen is that with the passage in the 2008
reauthorization of the fraud in foreign labor contracting, we’ve seen our first
convictions of that now in, I think, a case out of Kansas City where people
were being brought over for janitorial services. We think that that’s going to
be a powerful tool because sometimes you can show that there was a debt, but
you can’t show that the debt was then specifically used as a threat. So we
think that that fraud in foreign labor contracting provision of Title 18 that
was in the TVPRA is going to help an awful lot.
Two other areas, though, that we think that we need to look at: We’re working
with countries around the world to try to – as the Department of Labor’s final
rule on the guest worker programs here in the U.S. does – to try to strip the
power of the labor recruiters to basically sell the chance to work in another
country in exchange for the person’s freedom. We see that as something that
only when we are able to bridge the power differential between the source
countries – your Bangladeshes, Philippines, Malaysia, et cetera, and the
wealthy countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, other countries in the Persian
Gulf – only when we are able to narrow that power differential will we be able
to end this practice of debt bondage.
So for the first time just about a month-and-a-half ago, we were able to attend
the Colombo Process, which is the sending and receiving countries – a
multilateral forum. They asked the United States to attend because I think
they’ve realized that even though we were not one of the countries involved,
that we had a particular voice. And we’re going to use that as an avenue, as
well as ASEAN and some of the other fora, to put that kind of pressure on the
REP. SMITH: Thank you. Ms. Lemus, back in July 11th and July 15th of 1996, I
held two hearings on child labor. Robert Reich testified; he made an
impassioned appeal that we have to prioritize, we have to keep our focus.
Then, we actually had Kathy Lee Gifford testify; she was embroiled in a problem
of her line of clothing being made by sweatshops in Central America.
But we actually heard from Wage and Hour – the administrator at U.S. Department
of Labor, Maria Echaveste, who had just produced and spoked (ph) about the
report “By the Sweat & Toil of Children,” and she made a very strong statement
that without the participation of industry – and this was back in 1996 –
because we have too few Wage and Hour investigators, too few people at the
state and federal level, you just can’t enforce; you have to have buy-in fully
by the industry – that our efforts would flounder without that.
And I’m wondering – that was back in 1996 – what is the industry doing now to
be, you know, full-fledged partners in trying to combat labor trafficking?
MS. LEMUS: Well, at the Department of Labor, part of what we’ve also tried to
do is to increase the number of inspectors and ensure that they’re not only
bilingual, but that they have had training around the issue of human
trafficking. As I said earlier, they are the first to come to the table and
see, maybe witness where persons have been victims of trafficking.
On our end, we do about 26,000 inspections a year, yet there are approximately
7 million employers. So obviously, it’s a challenge. And we do need
assistance from the employers themselves to have buy-in that they wish to
participate. And we would say probably a good majority of them are going to be
Internationally, when we work with child labor issues in particular, what we’re
noting is that those reports do have an effect – that countries – as you said
at the beginning, the ambassadors – as soon as their reports come out, the
phone calls at our international labor affairs office, they start streaming in
quite steadily. And it’s really an effort to partner with not only the
countries but the businesses themselves to ensure that we are changing the bar,
that we’re actually lowering the – or, I guess I should say raising the bar in
terms of that participation with the private sector.
REP. SMITH: Thank you. Chairman Cardin?
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And let me thank both of our
witnesses. The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, TIP report, for the first
time included an analysis of the United States, which I think many of us
thought was a major improvement on the TIP report.
Is it the secretary’s intent that the United States will be included in future
MR. CDEBACA: That’s correct.
SEN. CARDIN: Good. I’m going to make sure that is done because I think it is
helpful. But let me talk a little bit about your testimony – you were talking
about the H-2A enforcement provisions – and I guess my question to you: How do
you enforce this? You already pointed out that many of the laborers will be
reluctant to come forward to talk about the circumstances out of fear. Could
you just share with us how you intend to enforce the provisions you talked
about in H-2A program?
MS. LEMUS: Through the Wage and Hour division in particular, we have engaged
in a variety of local campaigns – or national campaign, I should say – but also
state and local law enforcement and community-based types of task forces. They
belong – the Wage and Hour division belongs to about 25 taskforces across the
country at the local level.
We also participate in the [47:46] (federal act team ?) program, which is
looking right at this point – and my understanding is, they’re pilot programs –
but they’re looking to really increase the level of cooperation across federal
law enforcement agencies to really improve – we look at the three P’s as
prevention, protection and prosecution; we kind of start on the prevention end
of things because a lot of what we have to do is that educational piece.
We’re also engaged – and this is – it’s not a new program, but it’s something
that we’ve reinvigorated: We’ve re-engaged with a memo of understanding with
the government of Mexico, for example, whereby we have signed a memo of
understanding to basically ensure that workers that come in from Mexico are
aware of the –
SEN. CARDIN: But if I understand your H-2A restriction about the foreign
employment agencies being prohibited from being compensated, is that what you
said? Did I hear you correctly on that?
MS. LEMUS: The foreign labor contractors are not to receive any payment from
an employee. And it’s up to the employer to pay all fees, et cetera, and
contractually state that they – in the contract with their agents – that they
may not – I guess it would be charge them any fees.
SEN. CARDIN: And again, how are you going to enforce that if you don’t have
your own inspectors out, or some way of finding out what’s going on? It’s
wonderful to have cooperation, but I don’t think you’re going to have
cooperation from unscrupulous foreign employment agencies or the workers who
are afraid of losing their jobs.
MS. LEMUS: That is correct. So essentially, through – there’s an audit
process through the employment training that actually certifies the visas.
Prior to, they can – they look at the procedures of the paperwork if for any
reason there are any types of violations whatsoever. And there is a new audit
process that began, I want to say, last year. So it’s relatively new, but it’s
something that’s been added. So after the fact, they are continuously checking
the information from the workers.
The workers do come forward, not as often as we would like and not as well as
we would like, so we’ve also increased our partnerships with local
community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, et cetera, but also
state and local law enforcement so that they can come forward as well.
Sometimes, the workers do not wish to speak on their own behalves, and they
have to have these third parties intervene, including, for example, the
SEN. CARDIN: Can either one of you follow up with us with how the ’08
provisions about training consulars (ph) on the issuance of visas, how that –
do we have any direct information on oversight as to how that has been enforced?
MR. CDEBACA: Certainly, Senator. One of the things that our consular officers
now receive during ConGen, which is the basic consular training office –
officers’ course – the trafficking victims identification, the indicators, et
cetera, are now taught during the basic course. So it’s not just kind of
remedial training like it had been in the past. Additionally, an online
training course is available for the consular officers out in the field for
updates and for keeping current.
But one of the things that we’ve seen that is probably the best training is
the repetition of the training. You’re familiar with, in the TVPRA of ’08, the
requirement that we work with the nongovernmental organizations to come up with
a brochure that would be given to many of the work-based or employment-based
visa, non-immigrant categories. And that’s the “know your rights” brochure
that is now given out. It’s actually reviewed by the consular officer with the
immigrant during the interview on the visa line.
I can’t say that it’s always a hundred percent – it kind of depends on what’s
happening at that exact moment. But one of the things that we’ve seen is, it’s
got the 24-hour hotline on it, they have received upwards of a thousand calls
since this went into place a couple years ago. Some of those calls are general
wage-hour type of calls, people wanting to know about housing conditions,
people wanting to know about a whole host of worker rights. But some of those
calls are human trafficking calls. And it’s something that we work with the
Human Trafficking Resource Center and with these task forces the Department of
Justice and ICE and others run to make sure that they respond when there’s an
allegation that’s coming forth.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, let me just point out: I think it’s
important that our staff really review the analysis of the United States in the
TIP report. Let me just point out one nuance here that was in this report
dealing with benefits. And as you know, immigrants, non-nationals, are
entitled to very few benefits in this country. And if they are certified as
being a foreign victim, then they are entitled to certain benefits.
And even though there was a 250-percent increase in certifications for victims
in the last year, there was no increase in funding for those programs.
We already have a relatively – well, we already have a hostile attitude in this
country on benefits for non-nationals. And we’re dealing here with an area
where we have either potential victims or victims that it seems to me we need
to conform to international standards as to how we deal with governmental
services available to this class of individuals.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SMITH: Commissioner Cohen.
REP. COHEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Ambassador, do we have – and it’s
hard to quantify, but could you give me the three or four worst countries that
are involved in the slave trade?
MR. CDEBACA: Well, I think, Mr. Cohen, there’s a couple of ways to cut that
particular orange. Whether it’s the raw numbers, I think that most
interlocutors that look at it certainly in the report indicates that South
Asia, that South Asian countries continue to have perhaps the largest numbers –
India, Nepal, Bangladesh, et cetera. East Asia and the Pacific region continue
to be of great concern as far as the numbers are concerned.
But one of the things that we often are trying to balance as far as saying,
what’s the worst country that there would be to be a trafficking victim – and
probably our heart goes out to most of the folks in the AF region, the Africa
region, because you’re talking about countries that have so few functioning
governmental structures, rule of law that’s not really there. Even if there is
an anti-trafficking law, even if they are active in the AU up in Addis, which
does an anti-trafficking day for the African child – against child trafficking
– on June 16th each year, that doesn’t necessarily mean it translates out into
the villages, out into the places where these kids are enslaved, whether it’s
in the cocoa plantations, whether it’s the fishing fleet on Lake Volta or
So without necessarily going into a particular country in Africa, we think that
Africa is deserving of a lot more of attention. We can’t take our eyes off the
prize as far as the countries that are continually of concern in East Asia and
South Asia. But we feel like the African child and the African men and women
deserve to be free from slavery and involuntary servitude just as much as their
REP. COHEN: What I was thinking of – and I – (inaudible) – like it’s going to
be difficult. I was imagining that maybe Ukraine and some of the more Western
countries might have had more of a involvement. But if the State Department
has any sanctions against countries, and if that could happen –
MR. CDEBACA: This is something that is one of the – one of the tools in our
tool chest: We – each year with the trafficking report, the ranking of the
countries from tier one down to tier three – following that tier three
designation can come sanctioning. And we’ve seen great movement, for instance,
just in the last year from the government of Moldova, which was very publicly
concerned that sanctions might kick in and that sanctions, not just the
sanctions from the TVPA – but perhaps even more importantly, the TVPA requires
the United States to vote against a country that’s on tier three in the IMF,
World Bank, et cetera.
And in the Millennium Challenge Corporation, we’ve seen a lot of movement on
countries who are concerned about their MCC money. Because then you’re talking
about some real money. So we’ve seen just in the last year the government of
Moldova, which doesn’t necessarily have it to spare, spend almost $900,000 on
Ukraine is still a problem, but not necessarily with its back against the wall
the way it was 10 years ago because of the number of projects both at the OSCE,
the United States government projects, AID, Justice Department, et cetera. But
we’ve seen that notion of sanctions, and the threat of sanctions, as something
that is moving these countries.
REP. COHEN: As a judiciary graduate, are there laws that we should be looking
at in judiciary you can recommend to us to strengthen what the body of law is
in our country?
MR. CDEBACA: Well, one of the things that we look at each year in the minimum
standards when we’re putting together the rankings of the TIP report is the
sufficiency of the laws in these countries. At the end of the day, what we’ve
been very adamant on is that they have a law that’s not based on old notions of
people being moved across international borders – that’s kind of the 1880s’
version of human trafficking – but rather focusing upon the enslavement,
focusing on the abuse of the people so they can see them not as an illegal
migrant but as a victim of slavery.
So through the ABA, through the International Organization for Migration,
through U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime (ph) and bilaterally, just directly as
the United States, we’ve been working with countries to try to get these modern
anti-trafficking laws passed. About 120 countries have done so since the
passage of our Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was one of the first
ones and therefore the models.
But what we’ve seen in some countries is, they can have the best law on the
books, but if they don’t go out and use it then it’s a failed promise. So
we’re having to come back in behind those laws, make sure that they mean
something in the real world.
REP. COHEN: How about laws here in our country, about employers or landlords
who – tenants and/or employees that are involved either directly or secondarily
in trafficking, labor trafficking?
MR. CDEBACA: One of the most positive things about the 2008 Trafficking
Victims Protection reauthorization was moving from a full-on knowledge standard
to a reckless-disregard standard for those who profit from human trafficking.
And so what we’re hoping is both the government – but then there’s also civil
liability under the trafficking act, which means that a good plaintiff’s lawyer
out there might take this and run with it.
But that notion of going after the hotel owner who knows that the pimps are
bringing the underage girls or the women into the hotel and profiting from
that, if they’re knowingly looking the other way, if there’s a farmer – you
know, when I was at the Justice Department, I prosecuted a farm-labor
contractor who was putting a work crew onto the same fields that one of my
predecessors had prosecuted somebody 20 years before. And the farmer was the
son of the man who had watched this other farm-labor contractor allow slavery.
But at the time, we didn’t have this provision. So the hope is, now this
provision with the reckless disregard, that’ll be a way to hold, whether it’s
farmers, hotel owners, et cetera, accountable in a new way.
REP. COHEN: Is there confiscation of property involved with those laws?
MR. CDEBACA: There is, although to date, most of the asset forfeiture has been
against the trafficker, the direct trafficker, rather than somebody who’s
knowingly or recklessly profiting from the trafficking. But I think that
that’s something that we’ve seen the civil rights division act very
aggressively on. It tends to focus one’s mind when the domestic servant – say,
for instance, in a case that was prosecuted out of Wisconsin – a domestic
servant who has been held captive in a house for 19 years ends up owning that
house because the government comes in and takes it away from the people who
enslaved her. That gets a lot of attention, and it should.
REP. COHEN: Yeah. I think it should, too. What do we have in the way of
undercover operations? Do we have any of those?
MR. CDEBACA: One of the things that’s been tough about undercover operations
is because we’re dealing with human beings, it’s kind of like doing the human
experiment trials in a university setting: The level of controls that one
needs to have as far as a controlled purchase, or something like that, becomes
But we have in the United States done a number of – and innovative and
proactive law enforcement approaches that I’d certainly be happy to brief you
on offline; perhaps we could have some of our colleagues from DOJ and ICE as
well to talk about some of those things that are being done.
REP. COHEN: I was just thinking – now, you were in judiciary, I guess, when
Stephen Colbert came, when he did the migrant worker day – maybe we could get
Geraldo and let him do that.
MR. CDEBACA: (Chuckles.) Well, it’s interesting because I think there has
been some very effective undercover work. I think I saw in the audience today
Ben Skinner, who is a – in his book, “A Crime So Monstrous,” talks about how he
basically set his stopwatch when he left his apartment one morning in New York,
and within six hours he had bought a Haitian child for slavery. And I think
that that says a lot not only of what world we live in as far as involuntary
servitude, but the kind of investigative reporting and the kind of undercover
work that needs to be done if we’re ever going to break this.
REP. COHEN: Thank you, and thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SMITH: (Inaudible, off mic) – Commissioner Cohen. Let me ask just two
very brief questions to Ambassador C. deBaca: The J-1 visa program, as you
know, brings in about 100,000 college students from around the world to work in
the U.S. Some work on the Jersey Shore, and they often do work in the summer
resort industry. And there have been increasing numbers of reports of abuse by
third-party brokers and unsupervised businesses. Associated Press did an
exposé on this, as you know.
And my question is – and the national human trafficking hotline – let me just
add this – has received, as I think you know, Mr. Ambassador, 369 calls from
J-1 visa holders on the work and travel program from young people who are
experiencing trafficking and other forms of exploitation from last summer
Strip clubs and adult entertainment companies openly solicit J-1 workers even
though government regulations ban students from taking those jobs that might
bring the Department of State into disrepute. And I’m wondering what could be
done to stop the abuse of J-1 visas by labor recruiters and businesses,
ensuring that students who come here have a safe and humane experience, and not
one of exploitation.
And secondly, on China – and I do hope when the designations of tier three are
listed that the department and your office is very seriously considering the
designation of tier three for China both on the labor and sex trafficking area.
But I’m wondering how – what kind of data calls you’ve gotten from the – and
information from our embassy and other sources about the exploitations of a
Chinese workforce. We know there’s no OSHA protections whatsoever; they have
in excess of 125,000 deaths directly attributable to occupational hazards.
There’s no labor unions. And those who argue for labor unions are summarily
sent to the laogai and tortured.
There is an MOU, as you know so well, that dates back to the George Bush – the
first administration on prison labor, and it’s not worth the paper it’s printed
on because it requires U.S. investigators to submit any complaint to the
Chinese authorities, and then they investigate and report back to us. There’s
no on-site inspections, no independent verification. And Chinese workers, as
we know, get 10 to 50 cents per hour for work, and many are in sweatshop
conditions dotted throughout all of China.
So if ever there was unfair trading practice, I think it is – and the
exploitation of labor fits that bill. Doesn’t that constitute labor
MR. CDEBACA: Thank you, Mr. Smith. One of the things that of course, with the
Summer Work and Travel Program – and this is something that when I have been in
Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine and Russia, that we’ve been hearing about
some of these concerns.
At the end of the day, this is a program which I think, you know, millions of
children, millions of students have been able to come in the United States over
the last 50 years. We think that it’s been not just a success story of U.S.
public diplomacy, but had a lot to do with getting people behind the Iron
Curtain to be able to understand who America was, who Americans were. And we
want to continue that with the countries especially in Eastern Europe.
One of the things that the department has done, because we recognize that the
young age and limited sophistication of some participants have contributed to a
potential vulnerability for trafficking initiatives that are targeted at the
participants – and so to minimize the risk, early this year we issued an
interim final rule – it’s April 25th of 2011 – in the Federal Register which
makes some changes to the program, sharpens the program as far as a pilot
program for the six countries: Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia,
Ukraine. And these are the six countries, frankly, that our law enforcement
agencies and our embassies and other had identified as those that should be of
The program and the pilot is requiring a hundred-percent pre-placement in jobs
– no bringing folks over through the program, and then getting them jobs here;
a full vetting of all the jobs – job offers; and enhanced monitoring.
But one of the things that the interim final rule explicitly did, because we
thought that it needs to be in there in no small part – so then if someone
brings someone over and does this, they might not just be violating the terms
of the program, but depending on what promises or contracts were given, could
be reached through visa fraud, fraud in foreign labor contracting, or even the
trafficking statutes – is that no Summer Work and Travel participant can be put
in any position in the quote, unquote, “adult industry,” and they can’t be put
into domestic-servant positions in private homes. Both of those are things
that we certainly know make participants vulnerable to trafficking, and are
basically a violation of the promise that the United States and the program is
making to these parents overseas that their children, their students are coming
to the United States to learn the best of us.
So we’re committed to policing this program and to not tolerating any of these
types of abuses within it.
As far as China is concerned, one of the things that we’ve seen in the last
months in China is in the wake of their joining the Palermo Protocol is a
little bit more of analysis from the Chinese academics, as well as some parts
of the Chinese government, the IMOAT – I-M-O-A-T, which is the
inter-ministerial anti-trafficking coordinating body – looking at what they
need to do to come into compliance with the Palermo Protocol. They have a way
And we’ve talked to them about this; I’ve raised it when in Beijing.
Especially, there’s been a problem of labor trafficking because up until
recently – up till just this year – men were not included in the definition of
trafficking, and unofficial workgroups were not. If you were part of a work
unit, then you could be considered a trafficking victim if you were a woman.
But a man who is working in the underground economy would not have been covered
by the trafficking laws.
So those cases that we’ve known about for the last five or six years – the
horrible cases of the brick workers, the men in the blacksmith shops, the
miners, et cetera, case after case after case coming to light – and having a
lot of, you know – even with the issues of being able to get the word out in
China, cases that have gotten a lot of attention in China, those cases legally
were not part of their definition of trafficking. So we’ve raised this with
them, but we stand ready to continue to work with our Chinese counterparts on
the law enforcement side especially as to what they need to do to address this.
One thing that we are seeing as far as some modicum of worker protection is for
internal migration. The Chinese government has been working with the
International Labor Organization and others, so we’re seeing a little bit more
as far as materials, know-your-rights type of things, kind of like what we’ve
talked about for workers going to other countries. But it’s the West-to-East
pattern of internal migration in China, even to the point of having it – you
know, deck of cards with all of the horrible things that could happen to you
when you’re in Southeast China before anybody gets on a train.
But we certainly share many of your concerns, and we’ve raised many of these
when I’ve had a chance to deal with our Chinese counterparts.
REP. SMITH: Yeah, just a follow-up: How difficult will it be for a
corporation to live up to the spirit and letter of S-bill 657, the senate bill
in California, when some of or many of its feeder parts are made or
manufactured in China, where – as Harry Wu has documented over and over again,
the great laogai survivor who is now a great champion of human rights here in
the United States – since there’s no access?
And very often, a colonel by day is also the CEO of that particular
corporation, and has the full protection of the government and the People’s
Liberation Army so that it’s very hard to penetrate that corporate veil. How –
MR. CDEBACA: We think that the California bill will have a big impact. We’ve
seen companies in China respond when there have been other issues often,
whether it’s lead in the paint or other adulterated materials. But this is
something that – Mr. Cohen’s point earlier about the wood in the guitar –
unfortunately, sometimes it’s easier to test that wood and see that it’s an
endangered tree; it’s easier to test the animal product and see that it’s from
an endangered species than it is sometimes to look at a factory and see whether
or not somebody was enslaved there.
So the level of inquiry that we hope that the California transparency act will
enable us to proceed with – certainly, the hope is that we can put the freedom
of a person at the same level as the pelt of some kind of exotic animal.
REP. SMITH: Do you anticipate that the administration might suggest its own
language that would parallel the California bill?
MR. CDEBACA: I think that at this point, we definitely want to see how the
California bill comes online. We want to be supportive of the effort. I think
that we’d certainly want to work with you and others, if that was something
that was under active consideration, whether for the re-authorization or
otherwise. But at this point, we’re very much looking to see what we hope is
going to be the success of the California bill before we get into the middle of
it, as it were.
REP. SMITH: I will thank our two very distinguished witnesses for your
testimony and for your leadership. And thank you so much.
I’d now like to invite our second panel to the witness table, beginning with
Nancy Donaldson, director of the International Labor Organization at the
Washington office. Before joining ILO, Ms. Donaldson was vice president for
Dutko Global Advisors, where she was an advisor to the ILO Washington office
from 1997 to ’05. She was vice president for energy, education, technology,
trade and international issues at the Downey McGrath Group. Prior to that, she
was in the Washington office, director for Women’s Action for a New Direction
(ph), and a lawyer in practice – in private practice.
We’ll then hear from Neha Misra, who is a senior specialist on human
trafficking and migrant worker programs for the Solidarity Center, an
international worker-rights NGO based in Washington, D.C., and part of the
AFL-CIO. She has worked for many years in international policy, advising on
migration and human trafficking issues. She serves as a member of the board of
directors for the Global Workers Justice Alliance, and as chair of the public
interest committee for the North American South Asian Bar Association.
In addition to her position as senior specialist at the Solidary Center, Ms.
Misra also serves as senior program officer in the Africa regional office. Her
expertise on global trafficking issues was initially developed in Indonesia,
where she was the deputy country director and program manager for the Solidary
Center’s Counter Trafficking Project. She worked in Indonesia for over five
years, starting with the Solidary Center as the director of its Democracy
Before assignment in Indonesia, she worked in Bosnia on post-war elections and
democracy, and in the U.S. as senior attorney advisor with the U.S. Department
of State – Department of Justice, I should say. While at DOJ, she also served
as the president of the American Federation of Government Employees.
And finally, we’ll hear from Julia Ormond, who is an internationally admired
and successful actress, and has played roles in numerous motion pictures and TV
shows, including “Legends of the Fall,” “Sabrina,” “The Curious Case of
Benjamin Button,” “First Knight,” and so many others. And she was awarded an
Emmy, I should say – in 2010.
Julia Ormond has an inspirational record of advocacy on human rights issues,
and has been strongly involved in the issue of human trafficking since becoming
aware of it firsthand –
experience on the plight of trafficked women in Eastern Europe.
She also served in a number of roles in international NGOs, most recently as
president of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, or ASSET, an
organization she founded in 2007. ASSET is an advocacy NGO dedicated to the
systematic eradication of slavery chiefly through giving the victims of slavery
a voice on their own. The group was the leading sponsor of the California
Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, which we discussed with the earlier
panel, which tackles slavery and human trafficking by requiring companies to
report on the sources of their supply chains.
Previously in 1999, Ms. Ormond also co-founded FilmAid International, which
aims to inform and empower refugee communities through film. In 2005, she was
named as the United Nations goodwill ambassador against slavery and
trafficking. She is no stranger to Capitol Hill, having previously testified
in the House as well as before the California state legislature again on issues
related to human trafficking.
So please, if you would begin first with Ms. Donaldson, Ms. Misra, and then –
batting cleanup will be Julia Ormond.
NANCY A. DONALDSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioner Cohen, and the
members of the commission, for inviting me to testify today. I am representing
the International Labor Organization, which is a specialized agency of the
Each year, millions of people leave their homes and cross national borders in
search of better prospects and greater security for themselves and their
families. Ninety percent of all migrants are workers and their families.
Migrants bring skills and initiative to advanced economies, to host countries.
They also benefit origin countries, sending money home and transfer of
technology and critical skills.
Today, we are here to discuss urgent problems often faced by vulnerable migrant
populations and individuals – criminal trafficking and forced labor – and the
actions that the ILO and others are taking to eradicate these abuses.
Migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. In the extreme,
irregular migration includes trafficking, smuggling, sexual exploitation and
violence. As ILO’s recent report highlights, forced labor today is the
antithesis of decent work, and a global problem affecting almost every country
in the world.
Traditional slavery is still found in some parts of Africa, while forced labor
or coercive recruitment is present in many countries of Latin America, parts of
the Caribbean, and elsewhere. In Europe and North America, an increasing
number of women and children are victims of traffickers who sell them into
forced prostitution or sweatshops.
The ILO estimates that there are at least 12.3 million persons in forced labor
today. Eighty percent, or 9.8 million people, were exploited by private
agents. Most victims are poverty-stricken people in Asia and Latin America of
those figures. Yet, over 360,000 women and men are in forced labor in
industrialized countries – OSCE countries – trafficked for either labor or
sexual exploitation. Some 56 percent of all persons in forced labor are women
and girls, and children under 18 years of age make up about half, nearly half
of forced laborers.
The ILO has taken up the issue of protecting domestic workers vigorously. Last
year, the ILO International Labor Conference began consideration of a workers’
– domestic workers’ convention. It will be expected to take it up for the
second round – final round in June of this year. We very much appreciate the
strong support of the United States in working on the domestic worker
protections, and also the OSCE.
One principal responsibility of the ILO is drawing up and overseeing
international labor standards. Strong enforcement of labor standards worldwide
levels the playing field for all workers, including American workers and
industries. In today’s globalized economy, international labor standards are
also an essential component for ensuring that the growth of the global economy
provides benefits to all.
The ILO has pioneered the development of international standards prohibiting
forced labor and for the governance of labor migration and the protection of
migrant workers since the 1930s. Two of the eight core conventions among core
labor standards set out prohibitions on all forms of forced labor. There are
also two conventions, 97 and 193, that govern migration for employment. Also,
in 1990, the U.N. International Convention on the Protection of Rights of All
Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was established.
The ILO has two specialized programs: the International Migration Program and
the Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labor, which provides technical
assistance to ILO countries and partners with the challenges of labor migration
and forced labor. The ILO is promoting a global alliance with partner
agencies, pooling their efforts to eliminate forced labor worldwide by 2015.
The OSCE is a major partner in this endeavor, and we do a lot of things
ILO’s International Migration Program supports ILO member states in combating
discrimination against migrants and helping their social and economic
integration. Currently, the program is engaged in 14 technical cooperation
projects either funded by or implemented in OSCE countries, working to develop
effective migration systems and policies and to strengthen government
institutions and educate migrants on their rights and the services available.
ILO has been at the forefront of generating and sharing data and knowledge on
these subjects to raise public awareness and increase pressure for action.
ILO’s initial body of research was seminal, as it provided the basic facts and
figures on modern forced labor, raising the global pressure for policy change.
I would like to emphasize that improving data collection on these issues is of
paramount importance. Significant gaps in understanding the quantitative
dimension of forced labor and human trafficking remain. I will say that the
U.S. law has brought forward more data collection, which we think is extremely
The ILO has developed and disseminated courses, guidances, training materials
on key aspects of forced labor and trafficking. And cooperation between the
OSCE and the ILO on research and training has helped our economic partners to
access important knowledge and expertise.
The ILO assists governments. We work hand in hand with our 183 member
governments in designing and implementing projects on the ground. Through our
Decent Work Country Programmes strategies, the ILO works with employers,
workers and governments to set out agreed national priorities in the world of
work. Experience shows with – that with careful awareness raising, consensus
can be built to include sensitive subjects such as forced labor among the core
In Brazil, the ILO has been working with our social partners on the issue of
forced labor and global supply chains. The abolition of slave labor and the
worst forms of child labor are a key priority for Brazil and their national
agenda for decent work. With grant support from the State Department, ILO
worked with companies and continues to work with the government, companies and
civil society to promote new understanding and strategies for engagement. The
key objective is to strengthen the global alliance against forced labor by
reducing the risks of trafficking and forced labor facing Brazilian suppliers
and international buyers. And the (pact ?) that does the work on that – we
work with seven tiers of suppliers just in Brazil sometimes.
I want to leave the commission with three key points. One, good migration
policies and the abolition of forced labor are challenges for every county,
whether industrialized, emerging economies or less developed. We believe that
true gains in the governance of migration and against forced labor must happen
in a multilateral context.
Two, the ILO takes a rights-based approach to these issues. In that, we are
very harmonious with this commission. We are devoted to promoting social
justice and decent work in recognizing human and labor rights.
Three, the governance of migration and forced labor deserves a
multi-stakeholder approach. The ILO works with governments and its strong
social partners to reduce irregular migration and end forced labor and ensure
protection of workers’ rights. We have enjoyed fruitful partnerships with
G/TIP, DRL and ILAB represented here today, and we respect and seek more ways
to work with the Solidarity Center. We are dedicated to continue working
together with our social partners and advocates to improve migrants’ conditions
and to end forced labor and human trafficking around the world. Thank you very
REP. SMITH: Thank you very much, and thank you for the good work of ILO over
these many decades.
I’d like to now ask Ms. Misra is she would proceed.
NEHA MISRA: Thank you, Chairman Smith and Commissioner Cohen, for this
opportunity to testify today. I’d like to ask that my full written testimony
be submitted to the record so that I can be very brief with you –
REP. SMITH: Sure.
MS. MISRA: – and we can get to some questions.
REP. SMITH: Without objection, so ordered.
MS. MISRA: Okay. Just – the Solidarity Center is an international
labor-rights organization working in over 60 countries around the world, really
appreciates the U.S. Helsinki Commission focus in this hearing on trafficking
for labor exploitation and the focus on abusive, unethical and illegal business
practices that contribute to human trafficking and forced labor. We’ve seen
firsthand how violations of worker rights and the lack of labor standards and
protections for workers increase their vulnerability to human trafficking. But
we still see in the media and when you talk to the public about human
trafficking, many times you’ll hear people talk about it as the crime of
organized syndicates, criminal gangs and underground criminals, which, of
course, is the case in many instances. But we are also seeing increasingly
around the world trafficking for labor exploitation happening in the context of
legal structures of employment and business, with the traffickers being
employment – employers and labor recruiters, and not gang members or members of
And so, that’s what I want to focus on today in my testimony. While
trafficking for labor exploitation has many facets, several major trends in our
globalized world endanger workers, particularly those at most risk in the need
and those in the most need of protection. In developed economies like the
United States and Europe, we’re seeing an increase in the cases of trafficked
immigrant teachers, nurses, construction and service-sector workers, all in
destination countries with valid visas, shining a light on the structural
failures within our economic and employment systems that increase immigrant
workers’ vulnerability to severe forms of labor exploitation. Multinational
corporations, employers, businesses, labor recruiters and others exploit these
Of particular concern to us – and Chairman Smith, you talked about (through ?)
the Senate, and in the earlier testimony we heard some about this – are
temporary labor-migration schemes. Around the world we heard – hear these
referred to as guest-worker sponsorship or circular-migration programs. But
these are increasingly being promoted by governments around the world to fill
the demand for cheap labor. In practice, these schemes create a legalized
system and structure for employers to exploit workers and increase workers’
vulnerability to human trafficking and other forms of severe labor exploitation.
Such programs have been plagued by a long history of abuses, ranging from labor
violations to visa fraud, debt bondage, involuntary servitude and trafficking
for labor exploitation. This includes, among many others, the U.S. H2 visa
guest-worker program. And we heard testimony from – our – the – our colleague
from the Department of Labor about the H2A, but I would like to emphasize the
H2B visa program; seasonal agricultural programs in Canada, such as the
Canadian-Guatemala Program; seasonal agricultural programs in Europe such as
Moldovan migrant workers going to Italy; and the kafala, or sponsorship system,
in the Gulf Cooperation Council states.
In my written testimony, I go into detail about some of these abuses, and – but
we already talked about that, so I’ll skip over that, but just want to
emphasize two common themes that we see come out of these temporary-visa
One of them, we talked about a little bit earlier is the role of foreign-labor
recruiters or employment agencies sometimes also call foreign-labor
contractors, and taking advantage of the lack of labor rights and inherent
structural failures in these programs to exploit immigrant workers. The other
theme that we see is the need to provide greater protections to workers and the
opportunities for them to report abuses and advocate for their own rights.
We’ve already talked a lot about the issues of debt bondage as some of the
problems of foreign labor recruiters. I want to get to some of the solutions.
The Solidarity Center is a proud member of the Alliance to End Slavery and
Trafficking, or ATEST, which is a coalition of 12 organizations including
Julia’s organizations and many groups that are currently in this room. And we
have some suggestions for the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victim (sic)
Protection Act of 2011 that would help increase regulation of foreign-labor
recruiters that we think is key to ending trafficking.
In 2008, as you know, Chairman Smith, there were actually some of these
provisions included in the House version of the bill. And then unfortunately
it didn’t pass the Senate, so it didn’t end up in the final version. But we
would really like to see it back into the 2011 version. And what we’ve seen is
a number of service providers in the United States have said that greater
regulation of foreign-labor recruiters and eliminating debt bondage would go a
long way to preventing human trafficking in the United States.
So we’re recommending, among many recommendations, first of all, strict
elimination of fees, that no foreign-labor contractor agent or employee of a
foreign-labor contractor should be allowed to assess any fee whatsoever,
including visa fees, processing fees, transportation fees, legal expenses,
placement fees and other costs to any worker. And employers, if they paid this
to the foreign-labor contractor, should not be allowed to pass this on to
The other key element that we’re – that we would like to see in the TVPRA of
2011 is greater disclosure, that workers are in the – in a written contract
both in English and the primary language of the worker, the written contract
disclose fully the terms and conditions of work; and the details of that are in
our – in my written testimony.
Senator Cardin asked Ambassador CdeBaca earlier about some of the role of the
consular officers. And I have to say that that pamphlet that was mandated in
2008, TVPRA, has made a great difference. We have a number of service
providers who specifically say that workers in the H2A program and others who
have been given T visas to the United States say they found out about services
through that pamphlet. And so we think greater disclosure in workers’
contracts itself would really go a long way in helping to prevent trafficking.
We also think that registration of foreign-labor recruiters is key. And our
recommendation includes administrative procedures for the Department of Labor
to register foreign-labor recruiters and that employers should be required to
use a certified, registered labor recruiter or to face penalties.
The last two pieces that we’d like to recommend are enforcement – I mentioned
that there would be administrative – that we recommend an administrative
procedure within the Department of Labor, but that also workers need to be
given access to civil remedies and rights to access U.S. courts to be able to
enforce their rights.
And then finally, accountability; that workers must be protected from
retaliation and employers must be held accountable for the actions of
foreign-labor contractors that they hire. One of the big things that we are
seeing as organizations that work on human trafficking for labor exploitation
in the United States is that the threat of deportation is unfortunately being
used against workers to stop them from reporting violations and from getting
benefits of the T visa program. And we’ve actually seen a number of cases
recently in the United States where it’s taken years for workers to be
identified as trafficking victims and get T visas, and that threat of
deportation being used against them in keeping them suppressed.
And so we would also like to recommend a change in the 2011 TVPRA that provides
temporary immigration relief to whistleblowers, to workers who are – who raise
the alarm about cases but that it might take them some time to be able to be
found as victims of trafficking, so that during that time, they don’t have to
fear deportation, they don’t have to fear threats; and instead, there can be an
investigation done about the abuses that they’re raising.
Just the last thing that I’ll mention is – I know Julia’s going to talk a lot
more about supply chains, so I’m not going to focus a lot on that – but that
when I was looking at the – when I was asked to testify today and looking at
the topic for this hearing, I thought it was important to mention another major
trend in the global economy is the use of trafficking for slabor (ph) and
slavery victims all along supply chains; and that when employers, whether
they’re buyers, multinational corporations or others, demand cheap labor or
unrealistic pricing structures, they should not be surprised to find severe
labor abuses, including slavery in their supply chains.
Similarly, when employers contract out or hire unregulated subcontracted
suppliers, they should not be surprised to find that there are trafficking
victims in the production lines. And when employers refuse to enforce or claim
that it is too difficult to monitor adherence to core labor standards in their
supply chains, they will find forced labor, debt bondage and other severe forms
of labor exploitation. And Julia, I know, will talk about the California law.
ATEST is also advocating that it be included nationally in the TVPRA. But the
one thing that at Solidarity Center we’d like to point out is that we think
that there needs to be – it needs to be looked at about how the U.S. does
investigations abroad of products that are made with forced labor or slavery.
And just as an example, the Solidarity Center had a report in 2007 called “The
True Cost of Shrimp,” which looked at the seafood-processing industry both in
Thailand, in Bangladesh. And we found severe cases of forced labor, human
trafficking, debt bondage, especially Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. As
a result of our report, the U.S. Senate asked ICE to do an investigation about
what was in our report. And so ICE did what they call a “jump investigation,”
and they went to both Thailand and Bangladesh to investigate.
The problem is that they have to notify, of course, the Thai government that
they were coming. And our partners on the ground reported that basically the
supply chains are completely cleansed. They had two weeks’ notice to know that
they were coming. The books were changed. A lot of the Burmese migrant
workers were sent off. And we have a lot of anecdotes I could tell you about
that, but that basically ICE said to us that they had to say that they did not
find anything that was in our report there. And it was basically because they
had to let the government know.
And so we’d like to advocate to try to find a better way to do these
investigations so that we ensure that products made with forced labor, human
trafficking and slavery to not enter the U.S. market.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to testify. I look forward to your
REP. SMITH: (Inaudible) – Misra, thank you very much for your testimony and
your work. And now, Julia Ormond, you’re recognized.
JULIA ORMOND: I learn something every time at these things. I’ve learned so
much from the previous testimonies. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and distinguished
members of the committee and staff. I initially engaged about the issue of
slavery and human trafficking shocked and spurred into action by reports of sex
trafficking. Nothing then seemed to me more heinous than the repeated rape and
violence that its victims endured.
The wide variety of the faces of slavery that I met – the first were
California-based. Other travels around the world took me to Russia, Ghana,
Thailand, Cambodia, India and Europe, and provided me with a creepy and
shocking perspective of how slavery pervades my own life, how I am unwittingly
connected to it and ultimately connected to its systemic violence. People
often ask – it was a question that came up – where in the world is this worst?
My answer is always in my home.
It’s simply not possible to sit easily in Los Angeles and forget the enslaved
children I have met, children that I have walked away and left to an uncertain
fate. And what keeps me up at night, what haunts me, are all of the victims’
stories. I’ll never forget the girl who crawled out of an eight-floor window
for fear of her life in sex slavery. But I can equally never forget the child
enslaved in the fishing industry, who jumped ship into the Thai Sea to float on
a barrel for two days and a night before being rescued because that was his
safest option; or the child who was chained, whipped and scarred for life while
maybe working on our carpets; or the child soldier forced to burn his village,
kill his mother and rape his sister for someone else’s war; or the enslaved
garment worker making my clothing or the footage of a Mayan agricultural slave
in Florida picking my tomatoes. These people are no less deserving of all of
our compassion than those forced into sex slavery. All victims of trafficking
and slavery deserve our attention and our commitment.
In 2007, I founded the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, otherwise
known as ASSET. ASSET’s an advocacy organization dedicated to eradicating
slavery and trafficking through amplifying the victim’s voice and supporting
systemic solutions. I have come to define enslavement as when one person
completely controls another person, uses violence or violent threat to maintain
that control, exploits them economically and pays them effectively nothing.
Trafficking is a process of enslaving someone.
Under the tenure of Ambassador CdeBaca, the 2010 Annual Report to Monitor and
Combat Trafficking in Persons stated that more people are trafficked into
forced labor than commercial sex. Yet ask any member of the public what
proportion of this issue is sex trafficking, and the usual response is about 80
percent. The International Labor Organization has recently stated that for
every one person forced into the sex trade, nine people around the world are
forced to work.
The forced labor of these victims taints many of the products that we purchase
and rely on every day. To quote the TIP report: It is not possible “to get
dressed, drive to work, talk on your phone or eat a meal without touching
products tainted by” slavery.
The United Nations has repeatedly stated that trafficking has shifted from
trafficking weapons to trafficking in drugs to trafficking in people, and now
into children. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has cited that the
profits from trafficking in people into Europe has now overtaken the profits in
the trafficking of drugs into Europe. Yet, in the United States we spend more
in one day still fighting the war on drugs than we spend in an entire year
fighting the trafficking of people.
So we all have a role to play in supporting the solutions, and solutions, there
are many. Every single place I travelled to, I specifically sought out
solutions that just await the resources to scale to meet a drastic need.
In order to resource the solutions, however, it’s vital to get the story
straight. And media can play a crucial role. Sex will always sell, whether
the story is good or bad. But we need the media to cover the issue fairly,
proportionately. We need media outlets to set aside deliberate resistance of
losing advertising revenue, and articulate how businesses can use their
influence over supply chains to recreate the map to illuminate the worst areas
of poverty in the world where slavery and trafficking can take hold.
As advocates, we need to do a better job articulating to the public the
enormous challenges that today’s complex supply chains present to business. We
need to articulate that the CEO is most often not the criminal, that this is
criminal activity tainting their supply chain most often around raw materials,
but as we have heard today, on many other points of intersect along the supply
chain, just as shoplifting is criminal activity occurring at the other end of
the supply chain, at the point of purchase.
Only by rediscovering the supply chain and influencing each step of it by
encouraging best practices can we implement real solutions, can the NGO work
with the CEO. A supply chain without a policy of best practices is like a
computer without virus protection: You will most likely become infected with a
virus or tainted by labor violations.
We need companies to come to the table and collaborate in finding better
solutions to work with governments and the NGO community who can offer victims
safety and rehabilitation, and can assist vulnerable communities. We cannot
accurately and efficiently access victims without the assistance of companies
that influence infected supply chains.
I think one of the most crucial pieces that I’ve learned is that this is a
verification of a process: Whether you are growing, picking, selling tomatoes
out of Florida, or purchasing couture clothing, you will find slaves. The
point is that the better your practices along the supply chain, the less you
will find them, and the better your practices, the better your response will be
at that moment.
ASSET’s solution was to be primary sponsor of the California Transparency in
Supply Chains Act of 2010, authored brilliantly by Senator Darrell Steinberg,
who I have to thank deeply. This law comes into effect January 2011, and
requires major retailers and manufacturers operating in California with over
100 million (dollars) in worldwide gross receipts to publicly disclose their
efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their supply chains.
This law will apply to just over 3,000 companies, around 4 percent of
California companies who represent an umbrella of approximately 87 percent of
economic activity in the state. This new law is one small step in a long
journey forged by others that ASSET joined.
I hope if it’s applied well that it will represent a watershed in the sharing
of knowledge, and will enable active consumer, investor and other stakeholder
engagement, will encourage a pooling of resources, and will get us closer to
concrete, measurable results.
The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act will for the first time enable
consumers to choose to support businesses that are creating best practices,
using their purchasing power to encourage them to bring their expertise and
knowledge of supply chains into the equation. Investors can implement
corporate governance and social responsibility practices, providing incentives
to companies to elevate human rights and place them right at the heart of their
In one sweep, it’ll educate companies unaware of a possible problem, not just
of their own potential vulnerability but also the devastating impact of using
company influence to drive profit up by forcing the prices of raw materials
down to a level where labor violations and criminal activity and suicide are
the outcome for the raw-material workforce.
It will create an environment where those companies already doing the right
thing can more robustly and publicly turn it into part of their brand identity.
And for the next step in the process to occur, Congress should enact federal
legislation disclosing the presence of slavery, trafficking and all forms of
forced labor in the corporate supply chain.
Post-globalization, where I have heard that the public trusts brands,
identifies with brands more closely than government – the supply chain is the
modern vehicle through which today we can spread liberal democracy throughout
Thank you for listening.
REP. SMITH: Ms. Ormond, thank you very much for your testimony, for being here
again, and above all, for your advocacy that has led to enactment of this very
important landmark legislation.
Let me just ask, if I could, Ms. Donaldson, you know, the assumption of
goodwill or the potential of goodwill obviously undergirds the multilateral
framework. You know, you – obviously most, if not, all U.N., ILO, any
convention has always a problem on the enforcement side. That’s no fault of
your own; it’s just the way it works. But I think you said consensus can be
built. And I’m wondering if the transparency supply chain act of 2010 might
not fit into a best practice that the ILO could include in its framework of
best laws that needs to be shared.
I mean, one of the important aspects of when we did the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act was to share and to share, invite best practices so we could
improve our own law but also to give it out liberally. And I remember giving a
copy that John Finerty on our commission staff translated into Russian to a
member of the Russian Duma, who then got some of it enacted in the Russian
Duma. We want plagiarism, in this case – (chuckles). So I’m wondering if the
ILO is looking at this as a best-practice law that needs to be shared with the
world, including the 14 agreements that you – or the work you have going within
the OSCE and elsewhere.
MS. DONALDSON: We are very interested to see how this law is implemented. And
you know, we tend to see California as another country, just – (chuckles) –
another economy. And it’s very hard to be a big company anywhere in the world
and not have California as one of your markets. So in a way, it may not need
to be passed in every state.
But yes, we want to share good practices. And I might say, I see this as a
part of a trend. And it’s also because the USDA guidelines that have been
issued by the Agriculture Department on best practices in agricultural settings
– I see in my conversations with companies that across the board, there are
different things coming up. And maybe the most intensely discussed right now
is actually around the conflict minerals.
But I hear companies, big ones, saying, well, the due diligence, that framework
that the OSCE has raised, maybe we should use this in the context of forced
labor or child labor. So it’s creating a lot of cross-fertilization. But I do
have to say the California law, I think, kicked it to another level in terms of
more recent legislation.
So thank you.
REP. SMITH: Would you want to respond on that?
MS. ORMOND: This was a little law that just, I feel, kind of got us out of an
impasse. It was a moment that we could capitalize on as an NGO thanks to the
work that had been done by the ILO. I think we actually did take some of your
practices – (chuckles) – we took an amalgamation of best practices, but the law
is designed in such a way that allows the corporation to come in with what
businesses see idiosyncratically within their own supply chain. Each industry
has different, idiosyncratic problems that the NGO community can’t really sit
from the outside and dictate to them. Plus, they’ll bring a totally different
mindset and innovation to finding solutions.
So the law is designed in such a way that we make suggestions as to best
practices, we make suggestions in terms of talking to the ILO, but we also open
it up to say, just – well, tell us what you are doing so that we can rate it.
REP. SMITH: Commissioner Cohen does have to leave, so I’d like to yield to him
for any questions.
REP. COHEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’ve got a 4:00 hearing – another
ranking member – but I want to ask Ms. Ormond, who were the main opponents to
your law in California?
MS. ORMOND: (Chuckles.) Thank you for landing me in it. Well, let’s put it
this way: There was not a single business in California that supported it.
And I think we were very lucky to have a governor who didn’t veto it, and who
stood up and said, it’s – you know, I’m asked if this is a job-killer, and I
don’t think it is. I think it’s a lifesaver.
I think there are challenges. I don’t want to presume that people go into it
with malicious intention; I think very often, there are stumbling blocks that
because we’re not discussing it because there’s lack of transparency, we can’t
get to the solution. So within different industries, individual brands and
companies aren’t actually sharing with each other what they’re learning.
So I think as this – the first step is to sort of move industries – like, you
have conflict minerals; you have the tech industries coming together to work on
that. And in a parallel, you have people sharing best practices around cotton.
If we don’t – if we don’t move it forward in terms of raising it up, then I
think it really has a devastating effect. I think California Grocers
REP. COHEN: They opposed the law and fought it?
MS. ORMOND: Yeah. And it took me by surprise because I thought, well, isn’t
this good for California? Can’t they just verify immediately that their –
can’t they verify more easily than somebody who’s reaching out to the
developing world? And I think we just haven’t really gotten to the bottom of
how they deal with undocumented workers. I think it made it difficult for them
legislatively to answer to that, because we didn’t really deal with it.
REP. COHEN: Did the chamber or any other organized groups of business,
manufacturers, et cetera – did any of them come out and work against it?
MS. ORMOND: Yeah.
REP. COHEN: They did?
MS. ORMOND: (Chuckles.)
REP. COHEN: Yeah? (Chuckles.)
MS. ORMOND: Yes. They did. I mean, we went back and forth. We had support
from consumers and consumer rights – we had a terrific support from socially
responsible investment firms that represented $42 billion. And I think what we
saw emerging was, the consumer is one stakeholder; the next consumer to engage
through apps and writing letters and Internet and viral is the employee.
Employees work better in an environment that they’re happier with; they’re more
productive. You can go to the investor; you can go to shareholders with the
And what we want the consumer to understand is that they are not – they are
disempowered as an individual to a certain extent. But you rally them as a
force together, they will drive what happens down the supply chain because they
will demand that supply chains be cleaned up, or they will leave that brand and
go to someone who is doing a better job.
REP. COHEN: Was the vote close on your bill?
MS. ORMOND: Sometimes. I mean, different – there were –
REP. COHEN: Stages.
MS. ORMOND: – different stages that we had to go through. What I have always
loved about this issue is that it’s a bipartisan issue. It’s something that I
will say in terms of the coalition, a task that we work on – it’s bipartisan.
And it has to be, for longevity.
What I do want to say about the bill is, I think it provides an engagement
point for the consumer to actually physically take action. There’s a lot of
awareness that people – from an employee standpoint people can have; one little
website that we participated in setting up sent off 97 – has now sent off
97,000 emails to CEOs asking them, what are your practices? And until – you
know, they’ve got until January in 2012 to say “no response.”
And I also – if I may, just a bit before you leave, I want to talk about how
when a supply chain is tainted, it may be tainted by very few individuals. But
there’s one example – there’s a terrific documentary called “End of the Line”
which looks to the decimation of the fish population. Fishing is an industry
that has a lot of issues. One boat coming in with two loads of cargo – I wrote
it down somewhere; I want to get it right – one of those boats can come up with
– I think it was the entirety of Taiwan’s quota for one fishing season.
So one or two criminals can decimate and destroy a supply chain. And I think
that’s what we’re seeing in fishing; we’re talking about having 20 to 50 years
left of fish. It isn’t those that have been given a quota and are meeting that
quota that are causing that decimation; it’s illegal fishing. It is illegal
deforestation that is causing huge environmental damage. And if we don’t look
to it, I believe that that is where this issue feeds all the way through to
being an international security issue.
REP. COHEN: I thank you for appearing before us, and your work, and the other
panelists as well. And I wish I had more time to stay here, but I’ve got to –
a obligation. I’ve learned a lot. As you say you’ve learned, I learned from
this committee. And there’s no greater human rights champion than the
chairman, and I will work with him on legislation to improve our work product.
You asked me earlier, do we have an audience? Well, you got a great audience
here with Chairman Smith.
MS. ORMOND: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Cohen, thank you very much, and thank you for your leadership.
Let me just ask a couple of other questions, if I could. And I think
Commissioner Cohen’s comment, or your comment – one of your comments – was very
well-taken about a corporation – what corporations don’t do business in
California – (chuckles). I mean, it’s just about the world.
But I do think there could come in 2012 some real issues of faithfulness on the
part of the corporations. And so the question would be, how do we ensure
compliance with the mandates of the California law? Would the federal law fill
some gaps that perhaps dropped off as the legislation was making its way
through, and would the additional firepower, if you will, of a federal statute
further prioritize and ensure that these corporations are, indeed, being very
We found even when we passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, I had to
hold an oversight hearing right here, nine months later, to ensure that major
provisions where it said you shall set up a TIP office, you shall establish a T
visa – nothing in it said “may;” it all said “shall.”
And even here, with the traditional separation of powers and the checks and
balances that are obviously a very good thing, we had to have an oversight
hearing – and I chaired it – to ensure that the major revisions were carried
out. Because delay is denial, and I would be very worried that some
corporations will game the system, be inadequate.
So what are the advantages of a federal law? And do other states have to pass
a law, or would that be – I mean, what corporations, again, like I said before,
are not doing business in California?
MS. ORMOND: Well, one of the things that we do have to do is get the list of
who the 3,200 companies are from the attorney general’s office. And I think
that’s something, for instance, that you would want to put into federal law,
that automatically the list of who is covered gets made public so the NGOs
aren’t scrambling to do that math.
There’s a number of things. I mean, for me what the bill does is move us
forward a steps so that for instance we pave the way for a commission to come
in. Prior to the bill, the commission couldn’t verify it, or certify anything.
So it wasn’t possible to do it.
But I also think that we have to kind of slightly change the mindset. I want
to talk about fair trade a little bit, and how fair trade – I should rewind a
bit – the greatest and most effective part of prevention is the alleviation of
poverty, and providing people with alternative solutions. And I feel that’s
what fair trade goes in and elevates the process for people; they create
communities who work together and keep each other on track. And they then give
a premium to the farmers once they have helped them get them to the level of
being an export.
And mangos out of Haiti would be a great example – the mangos from Haiti that
are sold in Whole Foods may well be something that elevates Haiti out of a
really tragic circumstance. And I think we need to move towards that.
What I also like about the California bill – people talk a lot about
enforcement – the consumer’s going to enforce it. Out of 3,200 companies, say,
there are 50 who comply, and the rest don’t. You’ve got 50 brands for people
to switch to. You don’t have to wait for the attorney general to do anything.
You’ve already clarified who’s doing great work and who doesn’t.
And I think that the federal bill will work. We’ve – all the way through we
had a collaborative approach to business, and that’s the only way that you
could get to the solutions. It can’t be done any other way. And it will be
fair and it will be reasonable and it will be doable for business.
REP. SMITH: Yes, thank you.
MS. MISRA: So, I just – I’m not an expert on this as Julia is, but I’ve heard
a couple of things that I think is interesting. One, we’ve heard that the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce is not opposing a national federal bill on this, because
they do want to see kind of the playing field leveled in the sense that it
would apply everywhere in the United States and not just in California, which
is an interesting and surprising result from this. And I’ve also just been
receiving a lot of emails from people about trainings that are already popping
up. The University of Delaware is doing a training for sourcing managers on
the bill, and so there is already, you know, companies getting ready in
figuring out ways.
And then just from our perspective, we’re an allied organization of the
AFL-CIO, and we’ve already had conversations with unions in the United States
about kind of taking the role that Julia’s saying on consumers and holding
people accountable. We know who a lot of the big players are in the sectors
that we know that there’s slavery, and sort of kind of start targeting them and
making sure that that’s happening. And, hopefully, it will – it will trickle
REP. SMITH: Yes.
MS. DONALDSON: Just two observations. I think we are going to see a real mix.
I’ve seen legal opinions online where the lawyers – corporate lawyers say,
well, the way you could interpret this is, you just say have to say what you
were doing on monitoring forced labor, and you can just say you’re not doing
anything in particular and that’s how to suffice ?) the law. And so you may
see some of that.
I think that’s going to be difficult because of the reports, like the reports
required by the TVPA, which say, well, these are countries where we think there
may be risk of problems. It’s a little harder if you’re sourcing from those
countries to say, well, there’s no problem in our (supply chains ?) that we’ve
ever seen, and that takes care of it.
So there’s no question that interaction between state and federal law is
important. And I guess what I would say, we don’t take a position on
particular laws, but we are collecting best practices. We look forward to
seeing what happens in this one. And I do think that the mix of laws and
strategies going on is having a really dynamic effect.
And I will say one thing. Once companies leave denial and go into what – “How
could we do it?” and then they move to, “We have to do something” – when
enterprise and its ingenuity comes into play, amazing things happen. And I
have to say, I’m getting excited about watching the companies that are at the
front end of this, because they’re solving problems that no one else has quite
seen, and that’s what we want more of. And I do think it’s possible that that
virtuous circle, spurred on by these different laws together, and maybe some
federal laws as well, is going to create the process, is creating a process
that we can partner with each other. Because no one company can solve these
problems, and no one country, and that’s why we say we have to really work
together. And the activists have an irreplaceable role.
REP. SMITH: Let me just ask you with regards to your deadline or your goal by
2015 of eliminating forced labor worldwide, who on the board would make the
decision whether or not to incorporate the new California law into a best law
practice that needs to be looked at by other countries? It seems to me that if
the U.K. and other countries were to – you know, the House of Commons passed a
similar law, the House here, obviously, and the Congress – it would add an
enormous pressure not just for reporting, but for accurate reporting, because
the website would be scrutinized by not just California and the NGOs that are
so concerned, like Julia Ormond’s group and yours, but it would be a – you
know, it seems to be more hands pulling on the oar, the greater that ship will
move and forced labor will be eradicated.
Who does that – makes that decision?
MS. DONALDSON: Well, ultimately our body of countries (in/and ?) the
international labor companies pass standards.
REP. SMITH: Right.
MS. DONALDSON: But we can do things much faster than that in terms of –
because that takes time and consideration – to pull together best practices.
And we are asked to advise countries all the time on how they might solve those
issues. And so I’d be happy to come back and let you know exactly what we are
doing on that, because I would – I’ll inquire.
REP. SMITH: Is it something that if we were to put together a letter from
members of the House and Senate asking that the ILO look to – both on a fast
track and as – you know, 2015 is not far away – to look at bringing on line
this very valuable – and I would say there’s nothing little about this, Ms.
Ormond, as you said. This is huge. And one state the size of California could
make all the difference in the entire world. But if you could, you know, we
would – we could put together a letter that would – that would try to get you
to adopt it as a best practice, if you thought that would be helpful.
MS. DONALDSON: Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Let me just ask Ms. Misra with regards to regulating foreign labor
recruiters. I chaired a hearing some years back when we discovered in the 2003
act, we put provisions in, in ’05, when we learned that U.S. corporations were
often complicit, either indifferent or there was woeful ignorance, which is two
different ways of being complicit, not wanting to know.
And in Iraq, we asked, I asked, a number of questions at two hearings that we
held jointly with the department, with the Armed Services Committee, about
labor recruiters, particularly in Jordan, bringing in all these people who were
slaves working with U.S. taxpayer money. And we keep getting assurances that’s
been fixed – it’s been fixed. I’m not convinced. I’m wondering what you
think, whether or not that has been fixed, if you could.
MS. MISRA: Thank you. We’re still hearing stories that it has not been fixed,
and not just in Iraq, but also Afghanistan, that Jordan’s being used. We’ve
heard particularly of Nepali and Bangladeshi workers. And then it’s also been
very interesting with the Arab –
REP. SMITH: They were the same ones who were exploited previously and that we
brought (attention to ?).
MS. MISRA: Exactly.
But it’s also very interesting now with the Arab Spring and the numbers of –
you know, people have been talking about the refugees that are crossing the
border from Libya and other places, but there’s huge numbers, as you know, of
migrant workers who are in Bahrain, who are in Syria, who are in Libya and
other places, and so their fate right now is very interesting. And a lot of
them are being told by the labor recruiters that brought them over there, well,
there’s nothing that we can do now, and they’re – and they’re stranded. And so
it’s quite interesting.
And just the global economic crisis: In the United Arab Emirates for example,
there’s large numbers of Indian migrant construction workers who are stuck in
the UAE; the jobs dried up because of the economic crisis and labor recruiters
are refusing to send them back, and so a lot of them are just living in camps.
REP. SMITH: With regards to the Transparent Supply Chain Act, I know how Julia
Ormond feels. Do you feel that there needs to be a federal law?
MS. MISRA: Absolutely, yes.
REP. SMITH: I know you had some recommendations, but the biggest problem I
think we might face would be a Senate 60 votes that would – might be hard to
Do you have any recommendations on where it should be? Should it be in the
TVPA reauthorization? You may have mentioned that earlier.
MS. MISRA: Yes. We actually – so the coalition that we’re a part of, ATEST,
is recommending that it goes into the TVPRA. We think in some ways that might
be a little bit easier to have it as part of the package. But also, a
stand-alone bill, we would support both. And so, you know, we’ve been having a
number of conversations with different senators and different congress people
REP. SMITH: Have you found – and I did ask Ambassador Luis CdeBaca earlier
whether or not the administration would present a model piece of legislation
along the same lines as California.
Do you think that might be forthcoming?
MS. MISRA: I haven’t heard it coming from the administration itself. I have
heard of several representatives in the House that are putting that forward,
and then our coalition, as I said, is supporting it. But Julie would know that
REP. SMITH: Well, we hope the two meet.
MS. ORMOND: I would say – I guess what I would just add is that I – in all
honesty, I think the jury’s still out as to the best place for the bill,
whether or not it be something that’s folded into TVPA afterwards. But
currently language that is being kicked around in terms of a federal bill is
placing it under the auspices of SEC.
And I think in terms of is it worth doing nationally, is it worth doing as a
federal – I think the federal bill gives it more teeth and raises awareness of
it throughout the U.S., and then the U.S. takes a leadership role.
But we currently don’t have the list from the attorney general. So we need to
do – we need to run the figures again. Because if you’ve got 3,200 companies
in California and nationally you would have 3,201, it would be nice to know, is
it just once more? Is – can we just go straight to the EU?
And I just want to say that I – it isn’t a perfect silver bullet. It’s a
starting point. And I think it does remain to be seen how the community that
works on this responds to it and gets imaginative around it. But there
definitely are stumbling blocks. There are stumbling blocks around conflict
minerals and rare earth minerals that only come out of the Congo. There are
stumbling blocks in terms of human rights in China and places we can’t get in.
But I think it kicks the needle forward and challenges business to come up with
– help us come up with a solution, don’t leave the table until we’ve made it.
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
MS. MISRA: May I just say one more thing also? Just jumping over to the
foreign labor recruiter provisions, since you’re talking about national versus
stand-alone bills and folding into TVPRA, I know there’s been some discussions
about having a separate bill on regulating foreign labor recruiters, and I
really want to urge you and the House of Representatives to consider folding it
into the TVPRA, because when it is a separate bill, it gets caught up a lot in
comprehensive immigration reform and questions of that. And we think, while
those are important questions to address, if we address foreign labor
recruiters from the perspective of it being a trafficking problem and being
able to address it in the TVPRA, we may be able to get a lot further than if we
had it be a stand-alone bill that kind of got caught up in the comprehensive
immigration reform. So – but thank you for letting me jump that little piece –
REP. SMITH: No, if you could answer, because you worked extensively in
Indonesia and elsewhere –
MS. MISRA: Yes.
REP. SMITH: How do you recommend we pierce a place like China, where a person
even doing investigations into this kind of heinous activity could land
themselves into prison for 10 or 15 years and be subjected to torture? Even
the corporations often do a “see no evil, hear no evil” mind-set about the
sources of their materials, because they don’t want to be kicked out, they
don’t want their industry nationalized and they don’t want to face potential
MS. MISRA: Absolutely.
REP. SMITH: I’m wondering how – I mean, will – on the websites, might there be
a big gap when it comes to China especially?
MS. MISRA: Yes, and I – and I wonder about that too. I will say, the
Solidarity Center has a China office that we call where we specifically work on
worker rights issues in China, and so I’m not the expert on that.
But I will say one of the things that we are seeing is that we’re increasingly
seeing worker actions. You wouldn’t necessarily call them the same that – as
you see in the U.S. as strikes and other things, but we are seeing workers who
are having many one-day strikes, taking to the streets, demanding more rights
in the factories where they’re working. And that -- we really think that that
– the U.S. really needs to be supporting those efforts that we are seeing of
workers trying to speak out for themselves and enforce their own rights and do
more in that regard. And I know our office would love to come talk to you more
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
Would anyone else like to add anything before the hearing concludes, Ms. Ormond
or – yes.
MS. DONALDSON: This is on an earlier subject, but I thought I could just
mention one of the things that ILO’s been doing recently – I think it was maybe
in December – we had a conference in the Gulf states, and it was primarily
focused on embassy staff, economic officers from various embassies. And we
were – I think we were looking in particular in the labor trafficking issues
from Nepal. But it was a very interesting way to have countries – and I
wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. was involved as well, but other countries
there as well – to develop a network of representative officers to work with
each other to spot illegal-labor processes. And it was very productive, so
we’re looking at how to do that in other places, too. And so the requirements
that have happened as they were discussed, and Ambassador CdeBaca was talking
about, just to let you know, that’s something that can be built on, because if
that’s their responsibility and they’re talking to counterparts, then it
creates a different level of looking at it.
REP. SMITH: (Inaudible.)
MS. ORMOND: Just to say thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
I want to thank our very distinguished witness. I do believe that S.657 is an
historic bill that will have overwhelmingly positive consequences. So, I thank
you, Julia Ormond, for your extraordinary leadership in crafting and using your
persuasive powers, which are very real and compelling, to get that legislation.
And I think you gave great, I think, accolades to the Senate, sponsored the
president pro tem. And I think that was a very – you know, it does take a
lawmaker, but it does take people just like you and our two other distinguished
witnesses to make all of this happen. So I thank you sincerely for your
MS. : Thank you.
REP. SMITH: The hearing is adjourned.