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Slave labor targeted in Calif. law, social media

Slave labor targeted in Calif. law, social media

Justin Dillon is a singer-songwriter, but these days he is spending much of his time focusing on a global problem, slave labor.
The 42-year-old California rocker heads up a popular social media campaign to combat slavery.
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He belongs to a coalition of anti-slave labor groups sharing an $11.5 million grant from Google's philanthropy arm.
And now _ with the help of a groundbreaking anti-slavery retail law going into effect across California on New Year's Day _ Dillon believes the movement is reaching that tipping point where the average consumer can make a difference.
"We need cultural critical mass on this," Dillon said in a recent interview. "Modern-day slavery and human trafficking is far too easy to execute, and far too profitable."
Dillon became interested in the issue when his rock band was touring Eastern Europe in 2003. There he met some college students who told him they were about to get work in the West.
Dillon asked to see their documents, then warned the young women they could be trafficked into the sex trade or sweatshops.
They brushed him off, he said. "They said, `I mean, look around. I'll take my chances on this. You think I'm going to stick around here?'"
After that 2003 band tour, the Dillon began to focus on how to deal with slave labor.
He learned there are an estimated 27 million modern-day slaves around the world. He wondered how he could fight the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls, bonded labor and indentured sweatshop servitude.
Dillon started offering up his band for benefit concerts. He produced a 2008 documentary, "Call+Response," which included songs and interviews with the likes of Julia Ormond, Ashley Judd, Cornel West and Madeleine Albright.
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While some states already prohibit forced labor and criminalize trafficking, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act is the first to tackle the global supply chain.
The law affects an estimated 3,200 companies with a presence in California, including Walmart and Macy's. It requires retailers and manufacturers with gross annual receipts of more than $100 million to disclose what they've done to eliminate slavery in the global supply chain of their goods.
The California Chamber of Commerce and California Retailers Association were among those who argued the requirements would carry huge costs and that private businesses were being enlisted as de facto law enforcement agencies.
Supporters, meanwhile, note the law simply requires companies to disclose their efforts _ even if they've made none _ to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their supply chains.
While there are no monetary penalties, the state tax board will provide the attorney general a list of those businesses that have not complied and the AG's office will determine what legal action to take.
Many big companies, such as GAP, Nike and Ford Motor Co, already have adopted clean-labor policies after ugly reports about bonded, child or forced labor in their own supply chains.
Dillon insists Slavery Footprint is not about shaming businesses. It's about educating consumers and allowing them to determine where they will shop _ then getting them to tell that story via social media.
"We let everyone know that we're not handing out torches and pitchforks," he said. "But we are developing very sharp carrots in the marketplace."
The State Department provided the Slavery Footprint grant so Dillon could try to replicate the highly successful "carbon footprint" campaign by environmentalists.
"He's on the cutting edge," said State Department Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, who heads up the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and believes social media are key to fighting slavery.
CdeBaca cites the case of an 8-year-old girl whose Egyptian parents sold her into slavery to a Cairo couple, who then smuggled her into Irvine, California. She was forced to work for years as a domestic, living in squalor and not allowed to go to school.
She was eventually rescued and in December, at 22, became a naturalized citizen who hopes to become federal agent.
"You see something like that and you realize that every one of those 27 million is an individual," CdeBaca said. "And we can save them. We can walk with them on their path to freedom, because these are all people who, if you just give them a chance, can do amazing things."
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Updated : 2021-04-17 03:21 GMT+08:00