Against Their Will: the Hidden Danger of Human Labor Trafficking

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private companies reported that 2.8 million workers were injured at the workplace or became ill in 2019. Manufacturing jobs make up 15% of these non-fatal injuries, yielding an estimated 421,400 injured victims. This rate has not changed since 2017. However, these statistics do not include injuries that were unreported due to labor trafficking.

What Is Labor Trafficking?

Labor trafficking is defined by the TVPA (The Trafficking Victims Protection Act) as forcing or deceiving an individual into working or performing a service. This is a violation of human rights and has been called the modern version of slavery. Labor trafficking is not as reported or discussed as sex trafficking cases, but it is believed there are a higher number of cases worldwide. Some forms of labor trafficking include bonded labor, forced labor, and child labor.

Understanding the Three Types of Labor Trafficking

Bonded labor occurs when a worker owes money to his or her employer. Because of this debt, the employer may force the worker to pay back what is owed through service. The employer will often undervalue the service so that it will take the victim longer to pay back his or her debt. This allows the employer to profit over time.

Victims of forced labor are made to work for an employer against their will either through a threat of violence or blackmail. While there is no debt tying victims to their employers in these cases, individuals are bound by the fear of consequences following termination of employment.

Child labor may be linked closer to human trafficking as many child laborers are in illegal fields and face conditions that are hazardous to their health. Child labor occurs when victims who are not of legal working age are forced into employment. These employees are generally underpaid and under-protected.

What Workers Should Know About Labor Trafficking

Every worker is entitled to a safe working environment in which he or she receives all safety instructions in a language he or she understands. They should also be made aware of all safety equipment and procedures. Workers are entitled to compensation for workplace injuries regardless of citizenship status. Workman’s Compensation applies to both legal, and illegal citizens as long as they can prove that the injury occurred while working. Some of the most common work injuries include:

  •   Sprain, strains, and tears involving muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  •   Chronic back pain.
  •   Cuts, lacerations, and punctures.
  •   Concussions.
  •   Repetitive stress injuries.

Getting hurt at work may not be the employer’s fault, but that does not affect a workman’s compensation case.

Why It Is Important For All Workers To Be Informed

Victims of forced labor may be isolated from other workers who recognize reportable signs. They may also be coached on how to respond to dangerous working situations or accidents. Despite the fear that the worker may feel, once he or she has been identified as a victim of labor trafficking, he or she is eligible for government assistance programs. This includes programs that may help the worker stabilize his or her citizenship status and skills for job placement.