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Posted on: January 25, 2021

Labor Trafficking amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Woman Cleaning Counter

According to the U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO), approximately 25 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking, a trade estimated at $150 billion-a-year. While many think human trafficking is synonymous with sex trafficking, it also encompasses various labor exploitation. Labor trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor in inhumane conditions, for little to no pay through force, fraud, and coercion. As many as 20 million people worldwide are victims of labor trafficking and are being put to work as domestic servants, hospitality workers, construction workers, farmworkers, factory workers, etc.

Recently, traffickers have altered their techniques and targeted those now vulnerable from losing their jobs and homes, as well as trafficking victims who have lost access to assistance programs. With the economic crisis that ensued from the pandemic, human and labor trafficking increased as individuals struggled to make ends meet and provide for their families. Traffickers target potential victims with "too good to be true" job opportunities that led them to new locations, away from family, into a completely controlled environment. These "job recruiters" avoid answering questions, are reluctant to provide detailed information, and refuse to provide a signed contract.

While it is hard to imagine, labor trafficking does occur throughout the United States, and you may likely have interacted with a victim in plain sight. By learning the warning signs of labor trafficking, we can all play a part in helping victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

Have you noticed any of the following in your community?

  • Workers feeling pressured or threatened by their employer to stay in a job they want to leave
  • Employer or recruiter charging "job fees" and withholding pay from workers
  • A worker without access to their I.D., drivers license, or passport
  • Multiple people living in a small space with controlled access
  • Unsafe working conditions without proper safety gear, training, or inadequate breaks
  • Individuals being monitored by another person when interacting with others

If you've witnessed any of the following and suspect it to be human trafficking, contact your local law enforcement or federal law enforcement at 1-866-347-2423.

If you or someone you know needs support, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733.

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