Innovations In The Fight Against Human Trafficking Symposium/ Panel II/Labor: The Continuum of Exploitation


By: Cristina Carreno



Jaribu Hill, Executive Director of the Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights

Janie Chaung, Professor of Law at Washington College of Law at American University

Linda Oalican, Executive Director of Damayan Migrant Rights Association and Board Member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance

Shannon Lederer, Director of Immigration Policy at American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations


Tiffany Williams, Coordinator of the Beyond Survival Campaign, National Domestic Workers Alliance


The following quote from an article on set the tone for this panel discussion:

“Combating human trafficking is a cause that is in need of substantial redefinition. This requires the dissolution of many different models and the promotion of a larger political vision. We have no doubt that human trafficking, forced labor and slavery are all very serious and urgent problems. But they are problems that need to be understood as extreme manifestations of global patterns of injustice, exploitation, discrimination, and inequality, rather than as isolated and deviant exceptions.”

The panelists, four women working in the area of labor and human rights as it relates to trafficking, each brought their unique experiences, interests and expertise to the discussion.

Jaribu Hill discussed what she is seeing and doing in the South around trafficking. She spoke about misconduct of corporations in relation to trafficking, and the need to do more than just shaming the responsible corporations. She discussed the need to regulate and legislate against unsavory corporate behavior.

Janie Chaung discussed the continuum of exploitation and how the field has evolved in the past five years. She explained that one end of the continuum is anchored by everyday exploitation, such as wage and hour claims, while at the other end of the continuum lies slavery, particularly child slavery. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, begins the area that is referred to as trafficking. Ms. Chaung next spoke about how non-sex sector trafficking awareness is on the rise. She explained how now in conferences, exploitation is being discussed, allowing for a better understanding to be developed of exploitation and how exploitation arises to the level of trafficking.

Linda Oalican focused on Damayan and the organization’s efforts on combating trafficking. She explained that Damayan is a grassroots organization that addresses all the issues of migrant Filipino domestic workers including labor, health, gender, immigration and human rights issues. Linda Oalican also explained that Damayan creates awareness and advocates against globalization because in their experience, globalization in the Philippines has contributed to the country’s underdevelopment, poverty, and unemployment.

Shannon Lederer discussed the importance of the first class action to be certified in litigation under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The class involved 350 primarily female educators, The teachers paid recruitment fees between $10,000 and $20,000 to a legally licensed agency in the Philippines and were exploited once they reached the United States. She explained that one of the important things that came out of this case was the ruling by the Judge that coercion is not simply physical but that it can also be financial.

For video of this panel, please click here.