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A Primer on Worker-Driven Social Responsibility

A recent roundtable discussion from openDemocracy on the “future of work” highlights issues in current labor systems that leave many workers in precarious positions. A key take away from the discussion is that workers often lack sufficient power or authority to protect themselves. Globalization exacerbates this problem as workers face difficult questions about how to organize themselves and what to push for in a global market. The full breadth of the roundtable discussion is too much to cover in this spotlight, but we did want to highlight one promising concept of asserting worker protections: worker-driven social responsibility (WSR).

WSR initiatives aim to give workers self-determination and a platform from which to monitor and negotiate working conditions. Programs like the Fair Food Program in Florida or Vermont’s Milk with Dignity Program are appealing because they employ a bottom-up approach that is not reliant on government-enforcement to be effective. The Harvard Business Review recently published an article that showcases how these programs work, citing the Fair Food Program’s success in limiting sexual harassment.

According to the Ford Foundation, 80 percent of goods and services traded today are linked to global supply chains. This is the byproduct of the increased globalization of both capital and labor. A dizzying array of contracts and subcontracts between corporations and employers comprise these supply chains. This makes it difficult to work out who is producing what and for whom. As a result, it is hard for businesses to both maintain a successful commercial relationship with their suppliers and comply with labor standards. Existing domestic and international workplace regulations struggle to keep pace with globalization. This results in regulatory gaps where oversight does not apply or is weak.
Video clip showing a few steps (not all) in a supply chain.

In light of this, workers and local communities need to deploy an array of tools to organize, coordinate and expand their bargaining power to improve working conditions. Worker-driven social responsibility initiatives aid this process by requiring companies to comply with legally binding and enforceable agreements that emphasize transparency and extend protections to vulnerable and low-wage workers. These agreements require major brands to support suppliers who meet defined labor standards established by the program and to stop doing business with employers who supply a product that violates these standards. WSR initiatives represent a promising new way of addressing the issue of human trafficking, worker rights, and are a step in the right direction to ensure the protection of human dignity.

News and Publications

Photograph of computers.
Western Union and European police launched a project to share financial data to help prevent human trafficking. The hope is that the project will predict human trafficking before it occurs. According to project members, the shared data hub will collect information on money moving around the world and compare it to known ways that traffickers move their illicit profits, highlighting red flags that signal potential trafficking. The project will use IBM’s internet cloud services as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning to compare data and to spot specific terms that may be indicators of human trafficking.

Photograph of bedroom.
A minister in the United Kingdom urged tech companies to report teenagers suspected of transporting drugs for gangs. Victoria Atkins, the Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Minister, said that Airbnb and Uber should train users to identify victims who have been forced to transport illicit drugs. Similar reports of forced drug trafficking by youth have been made by several Colorado community organizations. Airbnb recently partnered with Polaris to tackle human trafficking within the sharing economy.
Photo of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both received the Nobel Peace Prize for their fight against sexual violence. Murad is a Yazidi human rights activist, author, and survivor of sexual slavery by the militant group ISIS. Mukwege is a gynecologist and surgeon whose work treats thousands of women and girls affected by rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes," said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, as she announced the award at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo.

Photo of scrabble pieces that spell Facebook.
The Associated Press reports that a human trafficking survivor from Texas is suing Facebook for allegedly facilitating sex trafficking on its platform. The suit also names now-defunct and two Houston hotels.  The plaintiff claims that she was friended by another Facebook user, with whom she had friends in common, and he later beat, raped and forced her into sex trafficking. Reuters reports that the lawsuit alleges that Facebook did not do enough to verify the trafficker's identity and that the plaintiff was never warned that sex traffickers were operating on the platform. 

Upcoming Events


2019 Freedom Network Conference

Freedom Network USA announced that the 2019 Conference would be held March 20-21, 2019 at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, VA. The title of the 2019 conference is Grounding and Growing: Tools for a Powerful Anti-Trafficking Movement. Visit the Freedom Network USA website for more details. 

Regional Anti-Trafficking Collaboration Meetings

November 12th, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Western Slope Against Trafficking. WSAT meetings are not open to the public. For more information, please contact Tom Acker. ​

November 13th,  10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Alliance to Combat Human Trafficking (ACHT) Pueblo. ACHT meetings are not open to the public. For more information, please contact ​
November 13th,  5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado. This meeting is held at the First United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs (map). For more information, please contact Roger Patrizio.

Upcoming Council Meeting

Colorado Human Trafficking Council Meeting Date

November 16th from 9:00  11:00 a.m.
The meeting will begin at 9:00 AM. Colorado Human Trafficking Council (CHTC) meetings are always open to the public and held at the Jefferson County Human Services Building (map). For more information please visit the CHTC Homepage.
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The content of this newsletter is not an endorsement nor does it reflect the opinions, views, or affiliations of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, the Colorado Human Trafficking Council, or the Front-Range Anti-trafficking Coalition. The content of this newsletter is intended for informational purposes only. 

Copyright © 2018 Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office for Victims Programs, All rights reserved.

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