Archive for the 'Slave Labor' Category

31
Aug
16

Under Aged Models Work as Slave Labor in New York City

Under Aged Models Work as Slave Labor in New York City

Source: Former Models for Donald Trump’s Agency Say They Violated Immigration Rules and Worked Illegally | Mother Jones

This is actually a big story, too bad the main stream media has missed this one. The case that Mother Jones, in this August 30, 2016 article, makes is that the Donald Trump modeling agency was involved in illegal immigration. I make the case that the following is a classic case of slave labor (also known as forced labor).

The Donald Trump Modeling Agency existed from 1999 to the present. The following case of the Donald Trump Model Agency involved slave labor. The model agency brought in under-age foreign models on “tourist” visas to work. If you did not know this – it is illegal to work with a tourist visa. The penalty for employing a person with a tourist visa ranges from $16,000 per employee and/or 6 months in jail. In the below story, Rachel Blias (see also 2:04 CNN Video) states that over her three years (2004-2007) working for the Trump Modeling Agency, while she made tens of thousands of dollars with her modeling jobs, the Trump Agency  paid her only a total of $8,000. That was due to deducting expenses such as exorbitant rent ($1600 a month for a bunk in a room being shared  with five other models (while a similar entire apartment was $1375 per month), and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs). Let us say she made $50,000. They paid her $8,000. That is a fee of $42,0000.

We have heard these stories over and over again. A foreigner is brought into another country – sometimes the worker is charged for the recruiters fee, travel and miscellaneous items – having to work off these “fees”. Sometimes their visas are taken. Then, they are charged exorbitant rates for housing, food, and other miscellaneous items. The workers have no rights and are constantly threatened of being reported to the authorities to be jailed or exiled. Workers continually toil to pay off the continually mounting debt.

The only thing missing from the story is sexual slavery with a 13 year old girl and sexual harassment. The sexual harassment story, from The Guardian, actually involved a make-up artist and not a model. Of course, Donald Trump is no stranger to lawsuits at least 142, see top 15 lawsuits involving Donald Trump.

Just a few informational nuggets before we get to the whole story.

The Incidence of Slave Labor

From End Slavery Now: An estimated 20.9 million are victims of forced labor, a type of enslavement that captures labor and sexual exploitation. Forced labor is most like historic American slavery: coerced, often physically and without pay. All other categories of slavery are a subset of forced labor and can include domestic servitude, child labor, bonded labor and forced sex. State authorities, businesses and individuals force coercive labor practices upon people in order to profit or gain from their work.

Forced Labor in the United States

In the U.S., more foreign victims are found in labor trafficking than sex trafficking. Some of these labor trafficking victims entered the country under work or student-based visa programs. Victims can be targeted once they arrived in the U.S., or foreign recruiters may bring these forced laborers to the U.S. using fraudulent or coercive means. Immigrants can be vulnerable to U.S.-based traffickers because of unfamiliarity with the English language, American customs or job processes.

The Story

Source: Former Models for Donald Trump’s Agency Say They Violated Immigration Rules and Worked Illegally | Mother Jones written by James West

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Republican nominee Donald Trump has placed immigration at the core of his presidential campaign. He has claimed that undocumented immigrants are “taking our jobs” and “taking our money,” pledged to deport them en masse, and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. At one point he demanded a ban on Muslims entering the country. Speaking to supporters in Iowa on Saturday, Trump said he would crack down on visitors to the United States who overstay their visas and declared that when any American citizen “loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been violated.” And he is scheduled to give a major address on immigration in Arizona on Wednesday night.

But the mogul’s New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones. Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump’s agency in the United States without a proper visa.

Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor.

Founded in 1999, Trump Model Management “has risen to the top of the fashion market,” boasts the Trump Organization’s website, and has a name “that symbolizes success.” According to a financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, Donald Trump earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake. Meanwhile, some former Trump models say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company.

Canadian-born Rachel Blais spent nearly three years working for Trump Model Management. After first signing with the agency in March 2004, she said, she performed a series of modeling gigs for Trump’s company in the United States without a work visa. At Mother Jones‘ request, Blais provided a detailed financial statement from Trump Model Management and a letter from an immigration lawyer who, in the fall of 2004, eventually secured a visa that would permit her to work legally in the United States. These records show a six-month gap between when she began working in the United States and when she was granted a work visa. During that time, Blais appeared on Trump’s hit reality TV show, The Apprentice, modeling outfits designed by his business protégés. As Blais walked the runway, Donald Trump looked on from the front row.

Former Trump model Rachel Blais appeared in a 2004 episode of Donald Trump’s hit NBC reality show, The Apprentice. Trump Model Management had yet to secure her work visa. NBC

Two other former Trump models—who requested anonymity to speak freely about their experiences, and who we are giving the pseudonyms Anna and Kate—said the agency never obtained work visas on their behalf, even as they performed modeling assignments in the United States. (They provided photographs from some of these jobs, and Mother Jones confirmed with the photographers or stylists that these shoots occurred in the United States.)

Each of the three former Trump models said she arrived in New York with dreams of making it big in one of the world’s most competitive fashion markets. But without work visas, they lived in constant fear of getting caught. “I was pretty on edge most of the time I was there,” Anna said of the three months in 2009 she spent in New York working for Trump’s agency.

“I was there illegally,” she said. “A sitting duck.”

 According to three immigration lawyers consulted by Mother Jones, even unpaid employment is against the law for foreign nationals who do not have a work visa. “If the US company is benefiting from that person, that’s work,” explained Anastasia Tonello, global head of the US immigration team at Laura Devine Attorneys in New York. These rules for immigrants are in place to “protect them from being exploited,” she said. “That US company shouldn’t be making money off you.”

Two of the former Trump models said Trump’s agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live. Anna said she received a specific instruction from a Trump agency representative: “If they ask you any questions, you’re just here for meetings.”

Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, declined to answer questions about Trump Model Management’s use of foreign labor. “That has nothing to do with me or the campaign,” she said, adding that she had referred Mother Jones‘ queries to Trump’s modeling agency. Mother Jones also sent detailed questions to Trump Model Management. The company did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment.

Fashion industry sources say that skirting immigration law in the manner that the three former Trump models described was once commonplace in the modeling world. In fact, Politico recently raised questions about the immigration status of Donald Trump’s current wife, Melania, during her days as a young model in New York in the 1990s. (In response to the Politico story, Melania Trump said she has “at all times been in compliance with the immigration laws of this country.”)

Kate, who worked for Trump Model Management in 2004, marveled at how her former boss has recently branded himself as an anti-illegal-immigration crusader on the campaign trail. “He doesn’t want to let anyone into the US anymore,” she said. “Meanwhile, behind everyone’s back, he’s bringing in all of these girls from all over the world and they’re working illegally.”

Now 31 years old and out of the modeling business, Blais once appeared in various publications, including Vogue, Elle, and Harpers Bazaar, and she posed wearing the designs of such fashion luminaries as Gianfranco Ferré, Dolce & Gabbana, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Her modeling career began when she was 16 and spanned numerous top-name agencies across four continents. She became a vocal advocate for models and appeared in a 2011 documentary, Girl Model, that explored the darker side of the industry. In a recent interview, she said her experience with Trump’s firm stood out: “Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for quite a few.”

Rachel Blais appeared in this Elle fashion spread, published in September 2004, while working for Trump’s agency without a proper visa. Elle

Freshly signed to Trump Model Management, the Montreal native traveled to New York City by bus in April 2004. Just like “the majority of models who are young, [have] never been to NYC, and don’t have papers, I was just put in Trump’s models’ apartment,” she said. Kate and Anna also said they had lived in this apartment.

Models’ apartments, as they’re known in the industry, are dormitory-style quarters where agencies pack their talent into bunks, in some cases charging the models sky-high rent and pocketing a profit. According to the three former models, Trump Model Management housed its models in a two-floor, three-bedroom apartment in the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park. Mother Jones is withholding the address of the building, which is known in the neighborhood for its model tenants, to protect the privacy of the current residents.

When Blais lived in the apartment, she recalled, a Trump agency representative who served as a chaperone had a bedroom to herself on the ground floor of the building. A narrow flight of stairs led down to the basement, where the models lived in two small bedrooms that were crammed with bunk beds—two in one room, three in the other. An additional mattress was located in a common area near the stairs. At times, the apartment could be occupied by 11 or more people.

“We’re herded into these small spaces,” Kate said. “The apartment was like a sweatshop.”

Trump Model Management recruited models as young as 14. “I was by far the oldest in the house at the ripe old age of 18,” Anna said. “The bathroom always smelled like burned hair. I will never forget the place!” She added, “I taught myself how to write, ‘Please clean up after yourself’ in Russian.”

Living in the apartment during a sweltering New York summer, Kate picked a top bunk near a street-level window in the hopes of getting a little fresh air. She awoke one morning to something splashing her face. “Oh, maybe it’s raining today,” she recalled thinking. But when she peered out the window, “I saw the one-eyed monster pissing on me,” she said. “There was a bum pissing on my window, splashing me in my Trump Model bed.”

“Such a glamorous industry,” she said.

Blais, who previously discussed some of her experiences in an interview with Public Radio International, said the models weren’t in a position to complain about their living arrangements. “You’re young,” she remarked, “and you know that if you ask too many questions, you’re not going to get the work.”

A detailed financial statement provided by Blais shows that Trump’s agency charged her as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in a room she shared with five others. Kate said she paid about $1,200 a month—”highway robbery,” she called it. For comparison, in the summer of 2004, an entire studio apartment nearby was advertised at $1,375 a month.

From April to October 2004, Blais traveled between the United States and Europe, picking up a string of high-profile fashion assignments for Trump Model Management and making a name for herself in the modeling world. During the months she spent living and working in New York, Blais said, she only had a tourist visa. “Most of the girls in the apartment that were not American didn’t have a work visa,” she recalled.

Anna and Kate also said they each worked for Trump’s agency while holding tourist visas. “I started out doing test-shoots but ended up doing a couple of lookbooks,” Anna said. (A lookbook is a modeling portfolio.) “Nothing huge, but definitely shoots that classified as ‘work.'”

Employers caught hiring noncitizens without proper visas can be fined up to $16,000 per employee and, in some cases, face up to six months in prison.

The three former Trump models said Trump’s agency was aware of the complications posed by their foreign status. Anna and Kate said the company coached them on how to circumvent immigration laws. Kate recalled being told, “When you’re stuck at immigration, say that you’re coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you’re going there to look for an agent.”

Anna recalled that prior to her arrival, Trump agency staffers were “dodging around” her questions about her immigration status and how she could work legally in the United States. “Until finally,” she said, “it came to two days before I left, and they told me my only option was to get a tourist visa and we could work the rest out when I got there. We never sorted the rest out.”

Arriving in the United States, Anna grew terrified. “Going through customs for this trip was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life,” she added. “It’s hard enough when you’re there perfectly innocently, but when you know you’ve lied on what is essentially a federal document, it’s a whole new world.”

“Am I sweaty? Am I red? Am I giving this away?” Anna remembered thinking as she finally faced a customs officer. After making it through immigration, she burst into tears.

Industry experts say that violating immigration rules has been the status quo in the fashion world for years. “It’s been common, almost standard, for modeling agencies to encourage girls to come into the country illegally,” said Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, an advocacy group that claimed a major success in 2014 after lobbying the New York State legislature to pass a bill increasing protections for child models.

Bringing models into the United States on tourist visas was “very common,” said Susan Scafidi, the director of Fordham University’s Fashion Law Institute. “I’ve had tons of agencies tell me this, that this used to happen all the time, and that the cover story might be something like ‘I’m coming in for a friend’s birthday,’ or ‘I’m coming in to visit my aunt,’ that sort of thing.”

For their part, modeling agencies have complained about the time and resources required to bring a foreign model into the country and have insisted that US immigration laws are out of step with their fast-paced industry. “If there are girls that we can’t get into the United States, the client is going to take that business elsewhere,” Corinne Nicolas, the president of Trump Model Management, told the New York Daily News in 2008. “The market is calling for foreign girls.”

In 2007, a few years before his career imploded in a sexting scandal, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) sponsored a bill that would give models the same kind of work visas that international entertainers and athletes receive. The tabloids had a field day­—”Give me your torrid, your pure, your totally smokin’ foreign babes,” screamed a Daily News headline—and the effort ultimately failed.

Trump Model Management sponsored only its most successful models for work visas, the three former models said. Those who didn’t cut it were sent home, as was the case, Blais noted, with many of her roommates.

“It was very much the case of you earn your visa,” Anna said. “Essentially, if you got enough work and they liked you enough, they’d pay for a visa, but you weren’t about to see a dime before you could prove your worth.”

The company eventually secured an H-1B visa for Blais. Such visas allow US companies to employ workers in specialized fields. According to financial records provided by Blais, the company deducted the costs of obtaining a work visa from her earnings. (The agency did not obtain work visas for Anna and Kate, who each left the United States after their stints with Trump Model Management.)

H-1B visas have been increasingly popular in the high-tech field, and Trump’s companies, including Trump Model Management, have used this program extensively in the past. But on the campaign trail, Trump has railed against the H-1B program and those who he says abuse it. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program,” Trump said in March. “No exceptions.”

Nearly three years after signing with Trump’s agency, Blais had little to show for it—and it wasn’t for lack of modeling jobs. Under the contracts that she and other Trump models had signed, the company advanced money for rent and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs), deducting these charges from its clients’ modeling fees. But these charges—including the pricey rent that Blais and her roommates paid—consumed nearly all her modeling earnings. “I only got one check from Trump Models, and that’s when I left them,” she said. “I got $8,000 at most after having worked there for three years and having made tens of thousands of dollars.” (The check Blais received was for $8,427.35.)

“This is a system where they actually end up making money on the back of these foreign workers,” Blais added. She noted that models can end up in debt to their agencies, once rent and numerous other fees are extracted.

This is known in the industry as “agency debt.” Kate said her bookings never covered the cost of living in New York. After two months, she returned home. “I left indebted to them,” she said, “and I never went back, and I never paid them back.”

The experiences the former Trump models related to Mother Jones echo allegations in an ongoing class-action lawsuit against six major modeling agencies by nine former models who have claimed their agencies charged them exorbitant fees for rent and other expenses. One plaintiff, Marcelle Almonte, has alleged that her agency charged her $1,850 per month to live in a two-bedroom Miami Beach apartment with eight other models. The market rate for apartments in the same building ran no more than $3,300 per month, according to the complaint. (Trump Model Management, which was initially named in an earlier version of this lawsuit, was dropped from the case in 2013, after the judge narrowed the number of defendants.) Models “were largely trapped by these circumstances if they wanted to continue to pursue a career in modeling,” the complaint alleges.

“It is like modern-day slavery” Blais said of working for Trump Model Management—and she is not alone in describing her time with Trump’s company in those terms. Former Trump model Alexia Palmer, who filed a lawsuit against Trump Model Management for fraud and wage theft in 2014, has said she “felt like a slave.”

Palmer has alleged that she was forced to pay hefty—sometimes mysterious—fees to Trump’s agency. These were fees on top of the 20 percent commission she paid for each job the company booked. Palmer charged that during three years of modeling for Trump’s company, she earned only $3,880.75. A New York judge dismissed Palmer’s claim in March because, among other reasons, she had not taken her case first to the Department of Labor. Lawyers for Trump Model Management called Palmer’s lawsuit “frivolous” and “without merit.”

Palmer filed a complaint with the Department of Labor this spring, and in August the agency dismissed the case. Palmer’s lawyer, Naresh Gehi, said he is appealing the decision. Since he began representing Palmer, he said, fashion models who worked for other agencies have approached him with similar stories. “These are people that are coming out of the closet and explaining to the world how they are being exploited,” he said. “They are the most vulnerable.”

Documents filed in Palmer’s case indicate that she worked in the United States without a work visa after being recruited by Trump’s agency from her native Jamaica. Gehi declined to discuss his client’s immigration status.

Former Trump model Alexia Palmer posed for this Teen Vogue shoot in January 2011. She secured a work visa in October 2011. Teen Vogue

A Caribbean model contest launched Palmer’s career in 2010, and at age 17 she signed an exclusive contract with Trump Model Management in January 2011. Department of Labor records show she received approval to work in the United States beginning in October 2011. Yet according to a financial statement filed as evidence in her case, Palmer started working in the United States nine months before this authorization was granted. Her financial records list a January 22, 2011, job for Condé Nast, when she posed for a Teen Vogue spread featuring the cast of Glee. (The shoot took place at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.)

“That whole period, from January to September, was not authorized,” said Pankaj Malik, a partner at New York-based Ballon, Stoll, Bader & Nadler who has worked on immigration issues for over two decades and who reviewed Palmer’s case for Mother Jones. “You can’t do any of that. It’s so not allowed.”

Trump has taken an active role at Trump Model Management from its founding. He has personally signed models who have participated in his Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions, where his agency staff appeared as judges. Melania Trump was a Trump model for a brief period after meeting her future husband in the late 1990s.

The agency is a particular point of pride for Trump, who has built his brand around glitz and glamour. “True Trumpologists know the model agency is only a tiny part of Trumpland financially,” the New York Sun wrote in 2004. “But his agency best evokes a big Trump theme—sex sells.” Trump has often cross-pollinated his other business ventures with fashion models and has used them as veritable set pieces when he rolls out new products. Trump models, including Blais, appeared on The Apprentice—and they flanked him at the 2004 launch of his Parker Brothers board game, TRUMP.

Part of Blais’ job, she said, was to serve as eye candy at Trump-branded events. Recalling the first time she met the mogul, she said, “I had to go to the Trump Vodka opening.” It was a glitzy 2006 gala at Trump Tower where Busta Rhymes performed, and Trump unveiled his (soon-to-be-defunct) line of vodka. “It was part of my duty to go and be seen and to be photographed and meet Donald Trump and shake his hand,” she remembered.

Trump made a strong impression on her that night. “I knew that I was a model and there was objectification in the job, but this was another level,” she said. Blais left Trump Model Management the year after the Trump Vodka gala, feeling that she had been exploited and shortchanged by the agency.

Kate, who went on to have a successful career with another agency, also parted ways with Trump’s company in disgust. “My overall experience was not a very good one,” she said. “I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t like the agency. I didn’t like where they had us living. Honestly, I felt ripped off.”

These days, Kate said, she believes that Trump has been fooling American voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, given that his own agency had engaged in the practices he has denounced. “He doesn’t like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim,” she said, “but because these [models] are beautiful girls, it’s okay? He’s such a hypocrite.”


Barbara Boxer, Democratic Senator from California has asked for an investigation regarding this story according to The Huffington Post.

16
Dec
15

Thai shrimp exporters linked to slave labor (Again)

Thai Shrimp Exporters Linked to Slave Labor (Again)

From Associated Press investigation – A story of continued slave labor which supplies shrimp to businesses such as Wal-Mart and Red Lobster. The New York Times had previously done a very extensive story about slave labor in the shrimp business this past summer.

Source: Thai shrimp exporters linked to slave labor – Spokesman.com – Dec. 14, 2015

SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand – Poor migrant workers and children are being sold to factories in Thailand and forced to peel shrimp that ends up in global supply chains, an Associated Press investigation found.

At the Gig Peeling Factory, nearly 100 Burmese laborers were trapped, most working for almost nothing. They spent 16 hours a day with their aching hands in ice water, ripping the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp. One girl was so tiny she had to stand on a stool to reach the peeling table. Some workers had been there for months, even years. Always, someone was watching.

Children sit together during a raid on a shrimp shed in Samut Sakhon, Thailand

Children sit together during a raid on a shrimp shed in Samut Sakhon, Thailand

“They didn’t let us rest,” said Eae Hpaw, 16, her arms a patchwork of scars from shrimp-related infections and allergies. “We stopped working around 7 in the evening. We would take a shower and sleep. Then we would start again around 3 in the morning.”

[More than 2.000 trapped fishermen have been freed this year as a result of an ongoing Associated Press investigative series into slavery in the Thai seafood industry. The reports also have led to a dozen arrests, millions of dollars’ worth of seizures and proposals for new federal laws.]

Pervasive human trafficking has helped turn Thailand into one of the world’s biggest shrimp providers. Despite repeated promises by businesses and government to clean up the country’s $7 billion seafood export industry, abuses persist, fueled by corruption and complicity among police and authorities. Arrests and prosecutions are rare. Raids can end up sending migrants without proper paperwork to jail, while owners go unpunished.

“I was shocked after working there a while, and I realized there was no way out,” said Tin Nyo Win, 22, another former Gig factory worker, who routinely peeled 175 pounds of shrimp with his wife for just $4 a day.

Hundreds of shrimp-peeling sheds are hidden in plain sight in Samut Sakhon, an hour outside Bangkok, some with slaves locked inside. Last month, AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp from the abusive Gig shed to major Thai exporting companies. They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites. In all, several companies received tainted shrimp, including Thai Union, one of the world’s biggest seafood companies, and a subsidiary.

The farmed shrimp can mix with different batches of seafood as it is packaged, branded and shipped, making it impossible to determine where any individual piece was peeled. But because at least some of the Thai exporters’ shrimp was processed by forced labor, all of it is considered associated with slavery, according to United Nations and U.S. standards.

U.S. customs records show the shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden. It also entered supply chains for some of America’s best-known seafood brands and pet foods, including Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast. AP reporters went to supermarkets in all 50 states and found shrimp products from supply chains tainted with forced labor.

Import and export records from Europe and Asia are confidential, but the Thai companies receiving shrimp tracked by the AP all say they ship to those continents. AP reporters in England, Germany, Italy and Ireland found several brands sourced from Thailand in supermarkets in those countries.

The businesses that responded to AP’s findings condemned the practices that lead to these conditions. Many asked for details and said they were launching investigations.

“I want to eliminate this,” said Dirk Leuenberger, CEO of Aqua Star, a leading seafood supplier. “I think it’s disgusting that it’s even remotely part of my business.”

Wal-Mart, Red Lobster and other companies said they strive to ensure the shrimp they receive is not tainted by slavery.

“As the world’s largest seafood restaurant, we know the important role we play in setting and ensuring compliance with seafood industry standards, and we’re committed to doing our part to make sure the seafood we buy and serve is sourced in a way that is ethical, responsible and sustainable,” Red Lobster said in a statement.

No Accountability

Red Lobster, Whole Foods and H-E-B Supermarkets were among the companies that said they were confident – based on assurances from their Thai supplier – that their particular shrimp was not associated with abusive factories. That Thai supplier admits it hadn’t known where it was getting all its shrimp and sent a note outlining corrective measures to U.S. businesses demanding answers last week.

Responding to U.S. business demands for answers to AP’s findings, Thai Union CEO Thiraphong Chansiri acknowledged “that illicitly sourced product may have fraudulently entered its supply chain.”

Susan Coppedge, the U.S. State Department’s new anti-trafficking ambassador, said problems persist because offenders aren’t held accountable – though the U.S. itself hasn’t punished Thailand, an important Southeast Asian ally. She said American consumers “can speak through their wallets” by avoiding slave-produced products.

Thailand passed laws this year to crack down on fishing-industry abuses and is working to register undocumented migrant workers, who often are lured from home by brokers with promises of good-paying jobs. They are then sold to shrimp sheds such as the Gig factory, where Tin Nyo Win and his wife learned they would have to work off what was considered their combined worth: $830, an insurmountable debt.

“There have been some flaws in the laws, and we have been closing those gaps,” said M.L. Puntarik Smiti, the Thai Labor Ministry’s permanent secretary.

Critics argue, however, that changes have been largely cosmetic. Former slaves repeatedly described how police took them into custody and then sold them to agents who trafficked them again. They say police are paid to look the other way and that officers frequently do not understand labor laws.

Tin Nyo Win escaped the Gig factory and was helped by a labor rights group, which pressured authorities to act. On Nov. 9, dozens of officers and military troops burst into the shed. Frightened Burmese workers huddled on the dirty concrete floor. One young mother breast-fed a 5-month-old baby, while children were taken to a corner.

But no one at the shed was arrested for human trafficking. Instead, migrants with papers, including seven children, were sent back there to work. Ten undocumented children were taken from their parents and put into a shelter. Twenty-one other illegal workers were detained, including Tin Nyo Win and his wife, but all have since been moved to government shelters for human-trafficking victims.

Local authorities have been ordered to re-investigate the factory, which is now closed. Police said workers were moved to another shed linked to the same owners. A Gig owner reached by phone declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the AP informed labor rights investigators who work closely with police about another shed where workers said they were being held against their will. It is being examined.

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 Editor’s Comment
This story highlights several items. One is slave labor. First, I want to address the “pat argument” of the Multi-national corporations in defending  slave labor which is:”These poor people are lucky to have these jobs, if they didn’t have these jobs they would all go into prostitution.” That is pure poppycock. The truth is the children will go back to school. These workers will find other jobs, obviously not well-paying jobs, but these slave labor jobs are not well-paying either. How is it fair that a worker is automatically started with a high amount of debt that they have to work off? These companies that use slave laborers prey on the helpless and the authorities who oversee slave labor are extremely corrupt and often put workers right back into more slave labor. Here’s a dare to you, Mr. CEO of Wal-Mart. Here is the premise – we do “Undercover Boss” with you disguised as a slave labor shrimp peeler and that you will get absolutely no help. Then we come back in six weeks and see how you do. (The same goes for you who support slave labor.)
Second issue: there is no accountability – this is an inherent problem with “globalization.”  In the USA, if a company is getting its supplies from a company within town, it is inherent that this company will go and inspect that contracted facility and that it will be responsible for the products that are produced. Now, move that same contracted company overseas and suddenly this company does not need to know what is going on and they are not responsible for the treatment of its employees or the products that are produced.  In exchange for cheap slave labor, I guess it is OK to look the other way.
One interesting note: Did you know that the US has a State Department anti-trafficking ambassador?
So, what do we do? Simple – do not spend your money at places that benefit from slave labor.
What can American government do? They could ban all shrimp from Thailand to send a message. Will they do it? This Congress?!! Yea, right. The only laws that pass now are executive orders.
Buy American – there is much less slave labor in the USA.
29
Nov
13

Santa’s Workshop – Inside China’s Slave Labour Toy Factories – YouTube

Santa’s Workshop – Inside China’s Slave Labour Toy Factories. Just in time (actually this documentary is a couple years old, much before the Bangladesh disasters) to put a damper on Black Friday comes this Swedish made documentary that I just discovered. It is about China’s slave labor called: “Santa’s Workshop – Inside China’s Slave Labour Toy Factories”.  It is 32 minutes long.

I know, you are thinking:”There is no way am I going to watch this  Swedish documentary and with subtitles? Yikes!!”  Let me first say that this documentary takes all of the most important documentation, the books, the articles, the blogs, the videos about Chinese labor practices and condenses it all into a very succinct 32 minutes and it is not over the top.  Santa’s Workshop covers all of these major problems in a very matter of fact approach.

Sweden is probably the most ethical country in the world, but even in this documentary, you can see how their company executives purposely look away at the abuses within their Chinese factories, which is quite disheartening knowing that many more countries and people who have much lower ethics. This film shows the problems with working conditions, how easily the Chinese companies  get around overtime rules and inspections (even Apple factories are unable to comply and their Foxconn factory is under constant scrutiny) and their reasons why these companies regularly break the rules. Also, the subject of an “authorized” union in China is briefly examined and then compared to an organized union in Thailand. The video, then, underscores the reasons why even unions in Thailand have no power either. One of one last topics of focus is the disregard of environmental regulations and the governmental apathy to their citizens health. This is a great documentary. If you had to see just one documentary about Chinese slave labor and what Americans are doing to promote these practices see “Santa’a Workshop – Inside China’s Slave Labour Toy Factories”. You can see it on YouTube (if you didn’t want to use the top link).

Chinese workers

Chinese workers sleeping after many hours at work.

Other Works

I am also adding a link to an  example physical torture employed on some workers in a Chinese factory. In this article, workers got electrical shocks, here is the link: Chinese police rescue tortured workers at kiln.

There was a series of episodes shown last year (2012) on Al Jazeera TV called Slavery: A 21st Century Evil – Prison slaves, 25 minutes. However, all attempts to see this episode are now blocked, most likely by the Chinese government. This show caused such a furor in China that Al Jazeera reporter, Melissa Chan was kicked out of the country and banned from coming back as reported by the New York Times, (if you will note the NY Times link to the episode does not work either). I did see the video last year, too bad I didn’t download and save it, who knew that it would not be allowed in America? It is very creepy the influence of Chinese totalitarian government seeping into the American freedom of speech. Some more paranoid people than I, really dislike that our Chinese-made computers could be easily be altered (at the factory) to track everything about us and could be a potential computer viral vector that can be unleashed by the Chinese government. (From the book “Cyber War: The next threat to National Security and What to do about it”  by Richard A. Clarke, former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism) There is speculation than computer hacking from China maybe even worse than our own NSA.  So, it is very rare for news stories that reflect badly on China, ever make it to the United States. Just something to think about for the holidays.

Future Movie

The Santa’s workshop is the best video to date on this subject, however there is a new project in the works, which will be a full length documentary: see my blog entry “True Cost” by Andrew Morgan which started as a Kickstarter project.

This Santa workshop documentary is being posted for those who believe there is no slave labor.

“Love makes the world spin clockwise. Greed makes it go counter-clockwise.” -Jack Ackerman

07
Nov
13

Chinese labor camp inmate tells of true horror of Halloween ‘SOS’ – CNN.com

Chinese labor camp inmate tells of true horror of Halloween ‘SOS’ – CNN.com. CNN reported the following story on November 6, 2013. This is a story where a Chinese prisoner had sent a secret written message within a Halloween decoration that he had made while in prison (laogai). This product ended up in Oregon where the unsuspecting consumer, Julie Keith, bought it at a K-Mart in Oregon. Ms. Keith had, with the help of some journalists, tracked down the author/prisoner who had written the letter. By the time they found him, he had already been released from prison. He was in Masanjia Labor Camp which is one of hundreds of Chinese laogai (prisons). In the above link and video, CNN interviews this prisoner as he tells of his time in the Chinese laogai. It is a sad tale.

The Masanjia Labor Camp held 5,000 inmates and forced many into forced labor, this being done in horrible living conditions with inhumane treatment  (sometimes torture). Laogai, unlike American prisons many times will jail many political “activists”,  journalists or religious “dissidents” (such as people who worship in public) without trial. They pay their time and if lucky, they may be released. However, there are some prisoners (in Chinese laogai) who have never committed any crime. These prisoners are serving time for crimes that their parents or their grandparents may have committed. They are born in prison, never to be released.

Life in a laogai

Life in a laogai

The Chinese government admits to only 320 Laogai and only 190,000 prisoners. However, most experts know the number is much higher and that the number of prisoners far exceeds the U.S. prison population of 1.5 million. (For the majority of the prison population – in China, they  jail people who speak out, while in America, they jail people for using or selling drugs.)

Reasons You should buy American made and not Chinese made Products

  1. Products are made by enslaved prisoners, whose only crime was standing up to a repressive, totalitarian government.
  2. Products are made by minors (child labor, like in many Asian countries).
  3. Products, including food products are adulterated with harmful chemicals known to injury people and pets, melamine, lead, etc.
  4. The manufacturing of Chinese products has caused wide scale pollution of air, land and water. Pollution is a major problem in China (like it was in the United States in the 1960’s, however, the US has learned from its mistakes), the Chinese continues to pollute like there is no tomorrow, occasionally causing cities to shut down because of lack of visibilty from the smoke, pollution and smog. The pollution is so bad that it caused Lung Cancer in an 8 year old, reports the Dailymail.

    Heilongjang province Oct. 21, 2013. Pollution is 40x higher than International Safety Standards.

    Heilongjang province Oct. 21, 2013. Pollution is 40x higher than International Safety Standards.

  5. The Chinese are using unfair trade practices – the artificial de-valuation of the Chinese yuan, gives the Chinese an unfair advantage to export.
  6. Unsafe and unhealthy working conditions for the Chinese laborers.
  7. No import taxes on many Chinese products – even our Founding Fathers knew that import taxes were essential to keep businesses in the United States running, in order to survive the onslaught of excessive foreign goods flooding the market.
  8. No oversight of product quality or safety on Chinese goods or foods. Definitely Buyer Beware. (It is the Year 2013, why should we still have to live by Buyer Beware Products? Just because it is cheaper?).
  9. Chinese products are not made to last, they are made to squeeze out every penny of profit. If you want quality and a product that will last for years, buy American.
  10. Buying Chinese products puts Americans out of work. The United States has lost 6 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, and 9.5 million ,manufacturing jobs since 1980. That doesn’t include the associated jobs that go with manufacturing. For every manufacturing jobs there is an associated 1.5 – 5  new jobs created.

“Now I check the labels and try not to buy things I don’t necessarily need, especially if it is made in China,” says Julie Keith (the one who received the SOS message).

On the link, there are two other videos from CNN that are fascinating, each about 2 minutes long: “Broken by Labor Camps” and “China under fire over Labor Camps.”




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