2 – Human Trafficking is BIG Business

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Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak discuss the unfortunate realities of human trafficking being big business. Learn about some of the business and economic issues that drive human trafficking, such as the law of supply and demand and how your actions directly impact this issue.

Key Points

  • Modern Day Slavery is a multi-billion dollar business and the second-largest criminal industry in the world, impacting over twenty-five million victims.
  • There are indirect costs to human trafficking that affect everyone, such as the cost on our taxes, law enforcement, loss of productive citizens, and the health care system.
  • It is important to identify elements within supply chains to identify any aspect contributing to human trafficking.
  • Consumers can look for fair trade products to ensure they do not have slave labor.
  • Sandie discusses how to balance a budget while having good stewardship.


[Note from the Ending Human Trafficking podcast team: This episode was recorded in 2011 so the contact information provided is no longer accurate. Please refer endinghumantrafficking.org/contact for the correct contact information to get in touch with the EHT podcast.]

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Dave [00:00:00] You are listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number two recorded in April 2011. Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandra [00:00:30] My name is Sandra Morgan.

Dave [00:00:32] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Sandie, so glad to be back with you again for our second episode.

Sandra [00:00:45] Well, and I’m really excited about the opportunity for the Global Center for Women and Justice to offer a podcast like this.

Dave [00:00:52] Me too. And we are going to be talking today about the how human trafficking is unfortunately a really big business. And that’s one of the tremendous realities about human trafficking and one of the reasons this is such a big issue.

Sandra [00:01:10] And last time we talked about what human trafficking is from a legal context, and there is a global, federal, and state laws and basically the elements of human trafficking are force, fraud and coercion. So it’s modern-day slavery, but we don’t see it the way that we sometimes think about the images of people in handcuffs or chained together or tied up to a post. But rather with force, fraud and coercion we see people who are offered a job that doesn’t really exist or they’re offered some kind of reward, financial or merchandise, and then that’s a promise that when they actually arrive, they’re put into some sort of labor or commercial sexual exploitation. And then they’re kept in that through coercion, through the use of threats against themselves or against members of their families. And sometimes they’re the force does come when they’re brutalized through gang rapes and beatings and torture. And that mental prison then goes with them 24 hours a day and they’re afraid to speak up. They’re afraid to try to run away because of what will happen if they get caught or what will happen to members of their family.

Dave [00:02:33] And unfortunately, this really does have a lot of business aspects to it, and I wish we didn’t have to have a business conversation about this. But the reality is is that the business aspects are a lot of the thing that really do drive human trafficking. And so I’m glad you’re here and you’re a wealth of information about how we can look at human trafficking through the lens of business, not to oversimplify it, but to give us a lens of really what is driving it. And so you probably are going to have questions about this as well as you listen to this podcast and we really encourage you to reach out to us with your questions and your comments. And so you can reach us if you have a question or comment for the show give us a call. We’re at 714-556-3610. That’s the main number for Vanguard University, where the Global Center for Women in Justice is housed. And you want to dial extension 2242. So again, that’s 714-556-3610 extension 2242 and Sandie folks can reach you by email as well to. The email address for the center.

Sandra [00:03:39] gcwj@vanguard.edu. GCWJ, Global Center for Women and Justice. You can also just go on our website GCWJ.vanguard.edu.

Dave [00:03:53] And before we talk more about the business of human trafficking, you have a quick piece of audio to share with us this morning.

Sandra [00:04:01] Our Live2Free did a video piece called “The Cost of Demand” and here’s just the intro so that we get an idea of how big the business aspect of this is to driving modern-day slavery. Listen.

Live2free Audio [00:04:16] We live in a modern world. Everything is possible. We fly to the moon. We decode the human gene. We invent new and better technologies to create, produce and continuously improve the quality of our lives. The world today is a global market where products, labor and money flow in an ever expanding search for maximizing profits. Wherever there’s a demand there will be supply. We want something. Someone will make sure we get it for the lowest cost and the biggest profit. But it comes at a price. What if I told you that twenty-seven million people are still enslaved today? Modern-day slavery has become a multi-billion dollar business and is now the second largest criminal industry in the world. The U.S. Government estimates that every year, about 200,000 people are trafficked into and within the United States to be exploited as labor and sex slaves. About half of them are children. Modern-day slavery is not an overseas event. It is happening right here, right now in your town.

Dave [00:05:46] 200,000 just in the United States.

Sandra [00:05:50] And that encompasses a huge array of possible scenarios for human trafficking, anything from commercial sexual exploitation, which is what we see most of the time in our news media as they tell stories of sex trafficking. But it also shows up on the shelves of our supermarkets and in our department stores. And what I’d really like to talk about is the law of supply and demand that drives human trafficking. The idea that you have an item that you want to sell and you’re the supplier, you have to have demand for that product or you don’t have a business. And so if someone wants to sell snow cones, they’re going to open up their business when the demand is the highest and they’re going to shut it down when winter comes and nobody wants snow cones anymore. So it’s very much driven by what people want. You heard that in this clip. If we want something, someone will sell it to us.

Dave [00:06:57] It’s unfortunate we have to use the term supply and demand when we’re talking about people and people exploiting other people. But boy, the reality is, is that is exactly what’s happening. And, you know, this is really an education for me as well, Sandie, because I had not heard that 200,000 number. The number I had heard was 17,000. And I don’t know where I heard that number from. Maybe you can remind me of something around the world trafficking or the State Department?

Sandra [00:07:28] And those numbers are just so difficult to get our heads around and these are estimates. The reality, Dave, is people aren’t raising their hand to be counted. The census takers didn’t say so, are you a trafficking victim?

Dave [00:07:44] Right.

Sandra [00:07:44] So a lot of those are guesstimates. It involves people who are trafficked and have been here for years and years as victims and then additional victims enter the country each year. And it also that number encompasses our own citizens who become victims of modern-day slavery.

Dave [00:08:03] So what can we do to really understand this from not only the business lines, but understand what we can do in this situation?

Sandra [00:08:09] Well, I think the first part is to understand our role in driving demand. That law of supply and demand that takes merchandise, a supplier who’s looking to make profit and needs demand and it changes it. Just like you said, that’s so horrific. Now the merchandise is a person and someone is making a profit off that person. Now, if that someone, that business man or woman, was selling illegal drugs, they would need to keep going back to their chain of supply to get more drugs and keep making point of sale with their demand. But when you’re talking about human trafficking, the merchandise is sold. The person is sold over and over and over again. So it’s a very profitable business with very little risk because as we talked about in the last podcast, victims are afraid to self-report to self-identify. And so the the risk has been reduced. Legislation is changing to increase the risk, so we have more deterrence. But at this point, when someone can make a profit so easily, that’s going to increase the number of people going into that business.

Dave [00:09:26] And you have educated me a lot just on how profitable it can be for traffickers and how much.

Sandra [00:09:33] Oh my goodness! The United Nations in 2008 came up with the figure of 33 billion dollars a year. And you know, Vanguard’s got some great students that do women’s studies minor. So one of my business students doing a women’s studies minor developed some picture slides and took some of the biggest companies that we know that are just part of our everyday lives, not because they’re trafficking businesses, but because so we can get an idea–

Dave [00:10:02] Just for a point of comparison of how much that actually is.

Sandra [00:10:05] Yeah. And they’re on the slide next to the $33 billion chart. It took all of the profit from five major companies that included big names like McDonald’s and Burger King and IHOP. I passed those places on my way to work. I imagined then I’m passing people who are invisible right here who are victims of human trafficking. And the part I really want is to look at today is how does, what’s my role in this as an individual and then how does this impact me? And first of all, as far as the indirect costs, any business that is using slave labor is competing unfairly. So if you’re a small business person, this impacts you because somebody else can sell something cheaper because they’re not paying their labor. So when you look at it that way, it’s like, Oh, I want to do something because it’s going to benefit me. There’s all the other indirect costs. The cost of human trafficking impacts our taxes. We are spending money for law enforcement to do investigations. We spend money to provide victim resources when after rescues and then the impact on our health care system. There are lots of indirect costs. And when I think about the trafficking of our own children, which is happening in the commercial sex industry–and we’ll talk about that more detailed in another podcast–when I think about that, that is an indirect costs that is the loss of our youth and eventually that impacts my future. I’m planning someday, Dave, to retire and the youth of today are going to be the ones paying taxes that help pay my retirement, right?

Dave [00:12:07] And we hope.

Sandra [00:12:08] So, so the the indirect costs affect every single person, every single person in America. But my role in driving that is a little harder to explain. It’s pretty easy to see the sex trafficking demand side of things. And in fact, here in Orange County, here in Southern California, Lieutenant Derek Marsh is the chair of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force and was one of the speakers at our recent spring conference, Ensure Justice: Defend Children. And it was amazing to hear him report over 100 victims of modern-day slavery have been served right here in Orange County. So why do we have so many victims right here in Orange County? Well, there’s demand. And many of the reports are victims who have been rescued from brothels. There’s demand to purchase sex from slaves, from children and traffickers because their businessmen are supplying what the local demand is for.

Dave [00:13:12] And you’ve really opened my eyes and in the past to just looking at some of the local newspapers of where there are ads or announcements that you know are sort of covered up as something else, but in reality, are actually part of this problem.

Sandra [00:13:29] Well, and that’s a great way to gauge how profitable a business is because if they’re spending money on advertising, they have an advertising budget, right?

Dave [00:13:39] Right.

Sandra [00:13:40] So, when I first became the administrator of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force a few years ago, the L.A. Times sent somebody to interview me, and he was amazed when I talked about ads in the local paper that were thinly veiled sex ads that targeted predominantly men because the ads were in the sports section. But those ads drive demand, and my students asked me, So how come there’s always these grand openings for this little massage parlor or this gentlemen’s club? It’s because our law enforcement are out there shutting these places down. They’re illegal. They cost our communities. So how are we part of ending that? And one of the ways is, like we talked about last week, when you see something that doesn’t look right, like a massage parlor that’s open from 10:00 at night to 3:00 in the morning or 5:00 in the morning, that would be unusual. And that would be a good time to call the 888-3737-888 number. But the other ways that this is big business are a little more difficult to identify. There’s no cars driving up at two o’clock in the morning and shady things like that that you can identify. You might see the evidence of modern-day slavery on the shelves of your supermarket.

Dave [00:15:08] How so?

Sandra [00:15:09] In 2007, the Trafficking in Persons report showed us that there were 284,000 children who were slaves on the cocoa plantations in West Africa. And this results in cheap chocolate on your grocery store shelf. So every time you purchase that product, you tell the supplier that’s the price I want to pay. Keep the price low and that drives demand for child slave labor on those cocoa plantations. So what are students that go out and do Live2Free presentations in high schools and doing education and awareness with the next generation, they always challenge them to start practicing just choices to change lives. Buy fair trade products like chocolate. So when you purchase fair trade chocolate, though, it’s going to cost more because somebody is getting paid a fair wage in their economy. So that means that you’re going to pay perhaps $2 for a chocolate bar. And in fact, my favorite is Trader Joe’s, and they have dark chocolate that’s fabulous. And I eat it guilt free because I know that a child wasn’t forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, no education, malnourished so that I can have cheap chocolate.

Dave [00:16:33] And their chocolate is all fair trade that they sell?

Sandra [00:16:37] The fair trade chocolate always has a little identifier, there’s a few different certification emblems, but it’ll say fair trade or slave free. But look for that information on the product. And here in California, starting in January 2012, big businesses, big companies, retailers will be required to provide for the consumer information on fair trade practices of their products and identifying in their supply chain when something has been made with slave labor is really important. When Ambassador Luis C.deBaca was with us at Vanguard in October of 2009, he told us how difficult identifying supply chains really is, and we all are working hard to make choices that don’t drive demand for slavery. But none of us are guilt free. Dave, do you have a cell phone?

Dave [00:17:39] I do have a cell phone. In fact, it is in my hand. It’s always that close to me.

Sandra [00:17:45] Well, 99 percent of the mineral that’s used in every cell phone is mined in a slave mine in the heart of the Congo.

Dave [00:17:55] I’ve heard that before.

Sandra [00:17:57] So this is ubiquitous in our lives. How do we begin to change that? We make choices to purchase chocolate, but I can’t. I need my cell phone, so I’m going to have to find other ways to advocate. And that means writing letters and creating more awareness so that the movement grows from a grassroots perspective.

Dave [00:18:21] And I think that’s one of the things that can be overwhelming for those of us as we’re learning about human trafficking for the first time and some of the issues that are surrounding the business aspect, Sandie, is that, you know, I never thought about buying chocolate until I met you. And I never thought about the choices I would make, and I don’t buy much chocolate. But but now when I do and we do buy chocolate, we do look for the fair trade and we do if we buy it, we buy it at Trader Joe’s and we do buy the fair trade chocolate. What other choices can we make that are the low hanging fruit right now? I know there are things like the cell phones that unfortunately a lot of us, you know, we don’t have a lot of other options, but what are there things where we do have options where if we made a few small changes would really change the global impact of what’s happening?

Sandra [00:19:11] Asking questions of the businesses that you patronize. Several years ago, one of our students did a research project within a mile of Vanguard. She went to every place that sold coffee or chocolate and asked them, Do you have a fair trade product? I only want to buy and our Vanguard students are socially conscious about this.

Dave [00:19:31] They are. They are very socially conscious.

Sandra [00:19:34] And she did this for three months each month and the first month they were like, Well, I don’t know. I don’t know. And then the next month, it’s like, Oh, you’re serious. And then the next month, yes, there it is. It’s right here. We have fairtrade chocolate. And they ask questions. You fill out the little suggestion comment card. This growth has impacted big names. Starbucks now reports 81 percent of their coffee beans are fair trade coffee beans. Even your supermarkets and big chain stores that we traditionally associate with having really low cost products. Walmart has a fair trade coffee you can purchase. But even things like your clothes. Asking questions. Where did this come from? Look up the label. Find out and you can go to our website, gcwj.vanguard.edu and we have a resource page where you can click on links that will take you to information about who sells fair trade products. One of the benefits of being the director of the Global Center for Women and Justice is I have students volunteering all the time, so I ask one of my students I want to buy a pair of tennis shoes and I want to make sure I get one where the company is working hard to make those kind of good choices that effect to reducing demand for slave labor.

Dave [00:21:04] Yeah, sure.

Sandra [00:21:05] So my student corrected me first. Did you know this, Dave? We buy athletic shoes now, not tennis shoes. I’m like, Oh, OK, because I don’t play tennis. It’s different. So I said, OK, fine, get me some information on buying athletic shoes. So a couple of days later, she came back and she said, this company gets a C-plus. They check out their supply chain for the cotton and for the plastic, and some of the other materials that go into producing an athletic shoe. But their metal is scrap metal, and they really don’t know where it’s coming from. And the rubber is coming from a place that we’re pretty sure the plantations have not had any oversight for slave free labor. So basically, they were making a good effort. Could not find an athletic shoe that was entirely slave free because it’s very complicated to check out the supply chain. So I made the best choice I could, and I bought C-plus shoes and I was happy with that.

Dave [00:22:12] And there are so many variables in this conversation, it really does impact so many different things. And you mentioned there’s a resource on the Global Center Global Center for Women and Justice’s site on what are some of the places we can frequent that really are committed to the fair trade practices. Where else would we, where else can we look or should we look for information other than in addition to just going out and talking to folks who are running businesses and talking about where they’re sourcing their products from?

Sandra [00:22:44] A great location is to go on the Department of Labor website, and you will be able to access a list that shows you the companies that are following best practices for fair trade labor, especially when it comes to importing materials. And in fact, that’s where you’ll find the report on Starbucks and 81 percent of their coffee beans are fair trade.

Dave [00:23:09] Oh, interesting.

Sandra [00:23:10] That’s one of the very best of websites to go to.

Dave [00:23:14] And I don’t know how much you know about the Starbucks process. I don’t know anything about it. But what caused that? What led to them making that change?

Sandra [00:23:25] Consumer demand, consumer demand. People ask. And at first they only had one product. It was estimate blend and you would have to wait while they made it for you. But if enough people say, Oh, I’ll wait because it’s important to me, then it begins to drive demand and companies want to have that socially responsible image. It’s really good and there and here’s where the law of supply and demand works for us on this side of the issue for ending human trafficking, when we demand, we provide a lot of reinforcement to business people that we want fair trade products, that we want to end human trafficking that drives demand and the suppliers look back at the product and figure out how to give us what we want. But the thing to remember that’s really important is that means it’s going to cost more. When I buy a $2 chocolate bar, I’m not going to have as much and we do lots of kids presentations. And if you if you do a little math lesson, you’ve got $10 a month Dave for your chocolate budget and you’ve been buying candy bars on sale, sometimes three for a dollar, sometimes two for a dollar, sometimes 75 cents. But basically, let’s kind of average that out and you could probably have 20 candy bars in the month. If you’re paying $2 for a chocolate bar, you only get five. So you make a choice to have less so that there is enough for a child on the West Coast of Africa.

Dave [00:25:01] And I think this is probably one of the big things that gets in our way. And I know gets in my way as an American in a consumer economy is we want the companies that provide services and products to us to be ethical and to source good products and to use fair trade practices, and yet we will go out of our way to save 30 cents on a product or service if we can and will go find it for the cheapest dollar amount we can if we have the opportunity to. How do you advise people to kind of balance those two things, Sandie? What should we keep in mind when we’re, you know, we’re trying to manage our budgets, but at the same time, we we want to be good stewards of really what we have?

Sandra [00:25:51] That’s a great question. And that’s why studying the issues so that we can actually be a sound voice that has good practice is so important to make a difference. And part of it is we have to change our culture so that more is not the definition of happiness and success. And frankly, you know, my background, I’m a nurse. Five chocolate candy bars a month is probably enough. So I don’t need to have so much. And our definition of good stewardship has often been erroneously lodged in that idea of less poor, cheap is good stewardship. So let me just kind of give you a different image of stewardship. When I spend two dollars for that chocolate bar, I not only get a really good, dark chocolates my favorite just in case you want to bring some to the studio next time.

Dave [00:26:57] It is duly noted.

Sandra [00:26:58] OK. When I spend that $2 an adult is getting a fair wage so that they have the dignity of supporting their children, feeding their children and educating their children. So when I spend that $2, I am buying a whole lot more than just the chocolate.

Dave [00:27:21] I am I’m struck as someone who although I am blessed to serve on your board as an adviser to the Global Center, my work is in the leadership and training world. And one of the things that we do when we’re talking with people about how to make a bigger impact in the business world is we have them first look at themselves and look at self-leadership and focus on changing themselves first. And it’s really the same story when it comes to the business of human trafficking, too, is that it’s easy for us to go out and to point fingers at all the people and all the companies out there that are driving the demand for trafficking. At the end of the day, though, we have to look at ourselves and we have to look at the choices we’re making and if we can change ourselves first, we do impact that business environment and we do impact the choices that people make ultimately.

Sandra [00:28:14] Absolutely. And don’t get me wrong, fair trade is a very slippery slope. One of the things that we tell our students is we are not against anybody. We’re not going to do boycott signs against big companies. They are working on retooling and there are business practices that would harm the small family plantations that are not in the fair trade certified associations which cost. So there’s it’s very complicated. But when I drive demand by my choices, then we drive the energy to begin to change the practices that are happening in those countries. And when I first read that report in June 2007, the image that stays in my mind as I did online research was a picture of a little boy’s feet. And he had run away from the cocoa plantation in Africa. And they had chased him and brought him back. And then they sliced the bottom of his feet so that he couldn’t run away again and to remind him that he couldn’t run away. And I saw those scars on the bottom of his feet and I decided that the price of eating cheap chocolate was too high for me.

Dave [00:29:38] You know, it’s there’s so much here that we we should keep in mind when we’re thinking about how we as consumers play a role and we all do play a small role. And you mentioned with the cell phones, we all play a small role in this in one way or the other. So if we can educate ourselves about the choices that we’re making, we play a lesser role in furthering this problem.

Sandra [00:30:04] It’s hard, though. See, it’s really easy and in the bigger scheme of things to go to a big rally and show up and carry signs. I’m against human trafficking. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s really hard to make choices every day and say, Wow, that looks really cool. But oh, you know what? It feeds the demand for more slavery. Well, I’m not going to buy it.

Dave [00:30:25] And I think the point you make of not being against the large companies and we have all made choices that have contributed to human trafficking. And so in addition to ourselves that the large organizations, the companies are going to help us to end this as well. We can work in partnership because they have a tremendous amount of resource and influence in the world. And if we enter that conversation as partners, they’re the ones that are going to really help us to get there much more than we would as individuals on our own.

Sandra [00:30:54] So this is a conversation that we want to keep having.

Dave [00:30:59] And we will keep having it starting with our next podcast episode, which is actually we’re going to tackle the topic of children in trafficking in the United States for episode number three, so they’ll be coming up in two weeks. In the meantime, Sandie, would you mentioned just quickly about the conference that’s coming up in March of next year?

Sandra [00:31:20] March 2nd and 3rd, 2012, our conference will be Women, Education, and Justice, A Global View, and you don’t want to miss it.

Dave [00:31:30] And that’s all for now if you have a comment or question for us. GCWJ@vanguard.edu or you can reach us by phone 714-556-3610 and that’s extension 2242.

Sandra [00:31:47] Thank you.

Dave [00:31:48] Until next time. Thanks Sandie for your time today.

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