Slavery in America never really went entirely away. And while most of the news about slavery here, and the majority of cases involving human trafficking are in the sex trade – it is growing in other areas. Something on the order of 65-150,000 people are held in modern slavery in the US.
Traffickers have become so adept at exploiting their victims in broad daylight that you may have purchased an item from their menu of goods from the comfort of your own home.
“Knocking at Your Door,” a new report released by nonprofit Polaris, details how little oversight there is in the door-to-door sales industry, which makes it a ripe environment for traffickers to lure in vulnerable victims. Between 2008 and this year, 419 reports of possible human trafficking cases involving traveling sales crews were made to two organizations that support this specific demographic.
That’s more than any other industry except domestic work.
While advertisements typically indicate that workers must be at least 18 years old, children are hardly spared from this industry.
A decade ago, the Child Labor Coalition estimated that more than 50,000 children were forced to work for groups that sell magazines, the Atlantic reported earlier this year. But Reid Maki, CLC coordinator, believes that number hasn’t budged much since.
“It’s become this little world of people operating in the shadows, and they’ve become very good at working the system,” Maki told the news outlet. “There are so many areas of magazine crews operating just outside the law that seem unconnected, but they’re not. They keep one step ahead of the authorities.”
But those figures likely belie the full picture considering that victims are often too fearful to come forward and report their traffickers.
The traveling sales industry is particularly appealing to traffickers because the crews rarely stay in one place for long and itinerant sales workers are considered independent contractors. That means they’re exempt from federal and state minimum wage requirements, overtime and other employment protections, according to the report.
And when businesses are flagged for questionable practices, they can change their name and register in another state with ease.
The bulk of such cases involve magazines sales, specifically.
Of the 357 cases that were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, 64 percent referenced magazine sales.
Many publishers aren’t even aware that such rings exist, and often don’t have the resources to monitor all of their selling agents.
The corrupt selling agents have developed a layered system that hooks vulnerable people and traps them with threats, force and manipulation…more…