Students learn in American history classes that slavery ended with the Union victory of the Civil War. It is shocking to know that slavery still occurs today with the modern day term known as human trafficking.
David Batstone, author of “Not For Sale,” hosted a workshop and presentation about the modern slave trade for the summer reading convocation held on Nov. 2.
“Philadelphia is one of the major ports where trafficking is brought into the United States,” Batstone said.
Batstone now motivates people to investigate local trafficking cases. “I get every year a group of 20 to 25 students to work with me in a living-learning community and I transform them into social researchers,” Batstone said. “I send them out to interview journalists, domestic abuse shelters, records at city hall, police and they start coming back with data and with that data we entered documented cases that went under the radar.”
Batstone gave the audience an example of a case that his students discovered in which 72 men from Thailand were trafficked into constructing a new bridge to connect San Francisco to Oakland, Ca.
“When I say trafficked, it’s that they were brought over to another country or otherwise kept bondage for the purpose of exploiting their labor without receiving any real pay and they cannot leave,” Batstone said. Batstone defines human trafficking as involuntary servitude.
Batstone’s students came upon a live case in which they investigated a massage parlor. Batstone went into the parlor with a hidden camera while his students stayed up all night outside with more cameras until they had enough evidence to shut the place down.
After the workshop, Batstone, accompanied by musician Brant Menswar, gave a multimedia show to put local trafficking issues into perspective and to offer ways for people to help stop it.
The winner of the student essay award, freshman Matthew Doyle, introduced Batstone and Menswar to the college community.
Batstone said that he became passionate about the issue when it showed up in his backyard at a favorite restaurant that also turned out to be a trafficking site. The community was taught that the slave trade is worth about $32 billion annually and that 800,000 to 900,000 people are sold a year. Batstone said that out of the people who are sold, 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children.
Batstone explained about a program developed to inform consumers about products that are fair trade. “Free 2 Work came out of that goal to provide supply chain transparency and deliver it to the average consumer and reward those companies who would change their behavior on their production so that they ensure free labor,” Batstone said.
Batstone and Menswar pointed out a shocking fact in that if one purchases chocolate candy, most likely they are contributing to modern day slavery since 70 percent of cocoa beans come from Ghana and 12,000 to 15,000 child slaves are used to pick the beans.
Batstone closed with how the students and faculty can get involved with fighting modern slavery. “There is not a profession, vocation, interest or passion that you have that cannot be used to change the world today,” Batstone said.
“We don’t need to be aware of another social problem because we are aware already,” Batstone said. “We need to be engaged in it.”
The last thing Batstone and Menswar did was take a quick poll of who in the community would like to start becoming actively involved in the issue. Almost everyone raised their hands when it came to signing up for the “Not For Sale” Facebook group. More raised their hands for starting a fair trade chocolate fundraiser. A few students said they wanted to be an intern with Batstone’s campaign out in California.
Emily Orso, freshman early childhood and special education major, was one of those students.
“What made me decide to go to California was the fact that sex trafficking was found in Berwyn on Lancaster Ave. That’s not too far away from Cabrini. This case was a few years ago, but still, like David said, ‘Slave trafficking is in our own backyards’ and here is the reality, it was in my own backyard,” Orso said.
“After Batstone’s presentation it became more clear that I could do more than just sit and feel sorry for the people impacted by the slave trade. I could actually do something. Things are still being sorted out about when I will go to California but I’m planning to apply for an internship very soon.”