Reducing Trafficking, aiding survivors, raising awareness
StoryKing County’s proximity to Asia and Mexico has made it a “hot spot” for what some consider a modern day form of slavery, Labor Trafficking. The Metropolitan King County Council today accepted a report on the collaborative steps the County can take to combat the economic and human impact this exploitive practice can have on the people trapped inside.
“Labor trafficking is an insidious and oftentimes invisible epidemic and it is imperative we take steps as a regional government, and as a community, to address its systemic nature and reach survivors,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, sponsor of the motion. “I am very pleased the Council is taking this important next step and look forward to upcoming legislation that will work to implement these recommendations.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, human trafficking is the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing black market. Victims of human trafficking include children who are involved into commercial sex trade, adults age eighteen or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm workers forced to labor against their will. Washington is a focal point for the recruitment, transportation and sale of people for labor, because of the state’s abundance of ports, proximity to an international border, vast rural areas and dependency on agricultural workers.
The report accepted today was the result of the Council calling on the County Executive to investigate the scope of labor trafficking and exploitation in King County, identify legal requirements, describe best practices for reducing labor trafficking, helping victims, and increasing awareness. The recommendations of the report include services for survivors:
• support for immigration related barriers to benefits,
• shelter and housing access,
• employment-related services, and
• increasing labor trafficking survivor awareness.
The report also discussed King County’s role in responding to labor trafficking, including the County’s role as an employer, using its regulatory authority, and working with law enforcement and in the state legislature to end the practice. In addition, the report recommended that the County, as a major purchaser of goods and services, can adopt procurement practices that ensure that the purveyors of goods do not have as part of their supply chain labor trafficking or the exploitation of workers.
The Council has lead the County’s effort to increase awareness of labor trafficking, starting with a motion calling for the development of an anti-human trafficking transit public awareness campaign, partnering with agencies to create plans and programs to address commercially sexually exploited children, and collaborating with the faith, the non-profit and business sectors to adopt and implement anti‐trafficking policies in business.