Laboring Against Human Trafficking: INGOs, Unions, and Anti-Trafficking Responses

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Stephanie LIMONCELLI, Loyola Marymount University, USA
Though less publicized than sex trafficking, labor trafficking has been a focus of many activists over the last 25 years.  Hundreds of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) are working to address labor trafficking in the world today, yet only a handful of unions have been part of counter-trafficking responses.  This is surprising given that unions have in the past participated in the anti-sweatshop movement and in combating child labor.  Why haven’t these groups joined forces?  Through a qualitative study consisting of a content analysis of the reports, pamphlets, and web-based materials of a stratified sample of 30 INGOs and 10 unions working on labor trafficking, as well as in-depth interviews with representatives of these organizations, this project explores the framings of labor trafficking used and the alliances formed.  I hypothesize that framings of labor trafficking as a criminal activity and/or a problem primarily of migration may be part of the reason for the disjuncture.  In addition, different organizational structures and mandates play a role, with INGOs often working to provide services to victims after the trafficking experience and unions working to address working members’ concerns.  This may facilitate the perception that each group is dealing with different populations and forestall understandings that labor trafficking can happen in the context of legal migration as well as in industries (e.g., construction, agriculture, hospitality, etc.) in which both formal and informal work takes place.