Thursday, June 30, 2016

Task Force Members Tackle "Bad Data and Bad Guys"

Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force members Bridgette Carr and Jane White (Executive Director) are featured in this month's Bridge Magazine. In an article titled, "Human Trafficking fight plagued by bad data, as well as bad guys" Carr and White address the scope of human trafficking in Michigan and misconceptions about the crime.

Explore the excerpts below and then read the entire article here

More common than a young woman being kidnapped from airport taxi stand or shopping malls, a more common sex trade victim according to Carr, "would be a woman of any age, living a full life of poor choices or simple bad luck, stuck with a pimp who may beat her, control her access to the drugs she's addicted to, or simply string her along with a bunch of empty promises. She may not even realize she's been trafficked, and she may return to her trafficker after she's been freed."

"Something bigger or scarier happens in the trafficking world when stories like (the "Taken" myth) are told, Carr said. If you don't match that origin story - if you're poor, black, made bad choices, used drugs, are homeless etc. - then you are just a prostitute. (The kidnapped young woman from the movies) is a victim, (but the more common, often less sympathetic women) are a prostitute. That translates into how law enforcement treats my clients.

The result: when a woman as a criminal rather than a victim, she is less likely to be offered shelter or other resources to help her exit a life she may not have freely chosen, Carr said."

According to Jane White, "the three magic words of human trafficking are simple: Want A Job...It's enough to attract both the ambitious and desperate, followed by the promise of some gain down the road - money, usually, but sometimes more ambiguous promises of love, commitment, family. Activists say that trafficking happens when the promise isn't fulfilled."

"White, at MSU, wishes the conversation around trafficking was less about sex and more about what she sees as the complicity of the rest of the world in forced or unfair labor. 

When you buy five blouses for $60 what does that tell you about the people who made them? The chocolate industry uses child slave labor. Does the global issue impact me? Yes, it does, White said. These are supply-chain issues. They should be taught in business schools."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Protecting the Safety and Confidentiality of Survivors

Collaborating with the media can be a very effective outlet for increasing public awareness about human trafficking, but it also comes with specific risks for survivors that must be considered by organizations. These include the possibility of sensationalism, misunderstanding, increasing danger for the client, re-traumatization of the client and jeopardizing the case.

What follows are a set of Guidelines adopted by the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force for Maintaining the Safety and Confidentiality of Survivors Who Participate in Outreach, Public Speaking, Advocacy and Media Work.

1. Survivors should have a network of both peer and agency support available to them when considering public speaking, advocacy, and media work.

2. Survivors whose criminal and/or civil cases are open should not speak to the media or share details of their case in public.

3. Survivors should receive proper and adequate media and public speaking training and have adequate time, preparation, and support before, during, and after the speaking engagement. This should include a discussion of the relative control survivors will have over how their stories will be presented in various settings.

4. If the survivor wishes, nonprofit organizations working with survivors should screen public speaking requests and should serve as a point of contact for survivors.

5. Survivors should not be pressured in any way to speak publicly about their ordeal and event organizers should leave room for survivors to change their mind about speaking publicly, even on the day of the event.

6. For public speaking events and panels, a speaker stipend for the survivor should be requested to help off-set the cost of travel, time off work, child care, etc., and to demonstrate respect for the survivor's time and energy.

7. To the extent possible, special conditions or requests made by a survivor (for example, using an alias, not interviewing on camera, avoiding certain questions) should be documented and communicated with event organizers/media in advance. If the survivor is represented by an attorney, the attorney may be best suited to negotiate special conditions or requests.

8. Social service or advocacy staff should debrief with survivors after the event to assess how they are feeling and if they need additional support to process any feelings or memories; peer support should be encourage.

9. Provide opportunities for mentorship between survivors, where experienced public speakers and presenters are available for those with less experience.

10. Do not assume that survivors will be more interested or comfortable speaking publicly in their native language or to individuals or groups that share the same cultural community of background.

11. Work with survivors to identify their own goals for public speaking, advocacy, and media work.

Caution: Avoid Sensationalism and Other Risks

These guidelines were adopted in August 2015 by the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force. Original Source: Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (2012).

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Are your Children Safe Online?

June is internet safety month. Are your children safe while online? Michigan families, especially minors, are becoming inundated with advertisements from alcohol, tobacco, pornography and gambling marketers through different internet and cell phone in-boxes. Texting their advertisements is the newest marketing effort that many of these companies are using. Thankfully the State of Michigan offers a free program to stop adult advertisements from reaching emails, mobile phones (text messaging ads) and instant messenger IDs. The Michigan Child Protection Registry, like the federal Do Not Call list, is a free do-not-contact service for Michigan's families and can be located at

As a strong supporter of this registry, I would like to encourage you to sign your entire family up for the registry and inform your friends and colleagues about how they can protect children and families from unwanted adult advertising. Just go to to and keep your loved ones safe.

Alisha Meneely, ProtectMiChild.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Join the Fight against Trafficking in Genesee County

I became involved in the Genesee County Human Trafficking Task Force (GCHTTF) because of the work that I was doing with disconnected youth ages 16 to 24 and homeless clients at the time through the organization, Resource Genesee. Both of these populations are vulnerable to being trafficked and joining the task force was a logical extension of my work. 

The fight against human trafficking is important to me because no one has the right to own or control another human being and because I feel called as a Christian "to set captives free". I am very proud of what we have accomplished as a task force, particularly our collaborative work with community partners, and the ways that we are growing. I invite you to learn more about our work and hope you will partner with us or your own regional task force in anti-trafficking efforts.

Our Mission: A community working together to end human trafficking. Thus your presence to accomplish the work to end human trafficking brings new life to "community".

Our Vision: By the end of 2019, Genesee County will have an effective unified community response to human trafficking.

To that end we have established and are working on the following goals:

The Task Force Organizational Structure - The Task Force has been successful in establishing a working organizational structure with formalized membership, effective committees and strong communication.

Our 5 committees include:

  • Public Awareness and Community Outreach - creating opportunities for presentations to many sectors of our community.
  • Advocacy - working to influence our local, state and national legislatures to enact legislation to protect human trafficking survivors and to stand up for victims everywhere, but most especially in Genesee County.
  • Communications - social media including Facebook emails, and the website.
  • Resources - cataloging the services available to survivors, identifying needed resources in the community, and disseminating the information to the community.
    • We are also working on developing a country-wide protocol for all agencies involved in responding to trafficking victims, similar to the collective response to child abuse.
  • Fund Development - developing a fund-raising plan to meet the Task Force needs and to raise funds to enable the Task Force to hire a full-time staff person.
Education - Task force members will be informed and educated to a common level, local inventory of resources completed, including gaps, and Task Force members will understand the local system and how to maximize current responses.

  • None of us on the Task Force realized quite how gargantuan a task this goal would be. We find that education and review of resources in our community continues to be a part of every meeting. The more we know, the more we know we don't know. However, we are in contact with one another continually to assist individual survivors who are experiencing an immediate crisis by providing local resources.
Partnerships - based on local resources and needs, determine needed and appropriate partnerships, pursue those partnerships and create relationships. We have an extensive membership in the Task Force including members from diverse organizations, agencies, and public entities in all fields. Our membership, however, will not be complete until everyone in Genesee County is a member.

Recruitment - identify partners to participate in Committee work as well as to serve on the Task Force. 

While our progress as a Task Force may seem fairly low key compared to survivor's stories, there is no way to assist survivors of human trafficking without a structure and process in place. This structure supports the work to end human trafficking.

Here in Genesee County while we believe that we have come a long way, we also believe that we have a long way to go to accomplish our ultimate goal - ending human trafficking period!

Take Action:

  • If a Committee's work seems especially appealing to you or the work of the Task Force piques your interest, please visit our Facebook page - Genesee County Human Trafficking Task Force - for postings of pertinent articles, information and up-coming events.  Please get involved!

Lindsey Younger is Charperson of the Genesee County Human Trafficking Task Force.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Farmworkers in Michigan Risk Being Exploited - Take Action!

Farmworkers Legal Services is a legal aid office that protects migrant and seasonal farmworkers throughout the state of Michigan.  They have sounded the alarm on a dangerous new precedent in Michigan law which threatens the safety and dignity of piece-rate hand harvesters in Michigan who are at risk of exploitation.  Below is an excerpt from their April issue brief on the new dangers to agricultural employees in Michigan. 

Since 1964, Michigan law has helped protect the most vulnerable of Michigan's workers by ensuring that they receive a fair wage for each hour worked. Michigan's minimum wage law, known as the Workforce Opportunity Act (WOWA), currently sets a minimum wage rate of $8.50 per hour for most Michigan workers. This state wage protection has been a critical tool for combatting "wage theft" against farmworkers who are among the lowest paid and are frequently employed by farmers who are not covered by federal minimum wage law (FLSA).

After decades of enforcing farmworker's rights to the minimum hourly wage, in February 2016, Michigan's Wage and Hour Program (WHP) ruled that a family of five migrant farmworkers were excluded from the protections of WOWA and decline to enforce the workers' minimum wage claims. The agency's determination in this case evidenced a radical, new interpretation of Michigan law which would potentially exclude most of Michigan's nearly 50,000 agricultural workers from the state minimum wage and further depress their already-low wages.

According to the Farmworker Legal Services, The Wage and Hour Program's arbitrary ruling means that thousands of the nearly 50,000 farmworkers, who annually harvest crops such as asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, berries and cherries, will work without any state minimum wage protection. Farmworker Legal Services insists that the Wage and Hour agency's new interpretation of WOWA is not only incorrect, but it is unlawfully discriminatory because the agency's new enforcement policy disproportionately impacts Hispanic workers. Over 99% of Michigan's agricultural workers identify as Hispanic/Latino.

The Wage and Hour Progam is mandated to interpret the law consistent with its legislative purpose to protect workers. Instead, WHP has relied on a strained, and arguably discriminatory, interpretation of WOWA to withhold minimum wage protections from one of the state's most vulnerable populations of workers.

Take Action:

Carrie Booth Walling is the editor of the Voices of Change blog for the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.  The information summarized in this blog comes directly from Farmworker Legal Services April 1 issue brief, "Agency Decides the Michigan's Minimum Wage Law Exempts Piece-Rate Hand Harvesters" and is posted with the agency's permission.