Governor Highlights Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking
Monday, 10/18/2010 12:50 pm
Governor Highlights Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking
Governor, members of the legislature, members of the human rights community, ladies and gentlemen. Simon Wiesenthal was fond of saying, "Freedom is not a gift from heaven. We must fight for it each and every day." That's what we're doing here today, fighting for freedom for those who have been denied it.
Since its very inception, the Museum of Tolerance has made slavery and human trafficking one of its important causes. Every day since the museum's opening in 1993 the more than 5 million visitors have experienced for themselves the horrors of human trafficking on an international scale in our Millennium Machine, particularly the exploitation of women and children.
Since January of this year, in conjunction with CAST, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, young women who have themselves been victims of slavery have come here on a regular basis to speak of their horrible ordeal.
It is now my honor to introduce a person I've had the privilege of knowing for more than 25 years who has always been there for our community. Even as the museum was being constructed he found the time to visit the site, to note its progress and scale over a few boards, leaving me behind because I was chicken to follow the Governor. He's been a great supporter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and has spoken out on numerous occasions against bigotry and anti-Semitism here and around the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, to sign into law SB 657, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act requiring all businesses in the state to disclose their efforts to help eradicate slavery and human trafficking, I have the honor of presenting the governor of the great state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Applause)
Thank you very much for the wonderful introduction, Rabbi Hier and it is great to be here today. I want to thank you for your great friendship, for your great leadership that you have shown here with the Simon Wiesenthal Museum and also for hosting us here today, which is really terrific. And what a great introduction. Why don't you ever introduce me like that, Senator?
Anyway -- (Laughter)
I try. (Laughter)
But anyway, this is -- what's so great about having this event here is because this is what the museum is all about, is about preaching and promoting the ideals of justice, freedom and tolerance and equality and, as the Rabbi has said, talking about and putting the spotlight on human trafficking and slavery.
The legislation that we celebrate here today will help advance those ideals around the globe, there are no two ways about that and we are talking about human trafficking here. Human trafficking is one of the great unspoken evils of our time. It is, in fact, modern-day slavery.
Now, here in America slavery ended 150 years ago in our Constitution but we all are very much aware that a lot more work needs to be done in our communities and on the streets. The statistics are literally frightening. Up to 50,000 people are trafficked into our country every year. At any given time, California is home to thousands and thousands of those cases and victims. Worldwide it is estimated that there are 12 million people that are enslaved -- 12 million. A vast majority, like the Rabbi said, are women and children.
Yet these are not just statistic, they are human tragedies. Those are real faces behind those numbers and statistics. They are faces of women beaten and battered, forced into selling their bodies, the faces of young boys and girls at sweatshops, forced to work in unbelievable and brutal, unthinkable conditions, the faces of family members who have been torn apart from their loved ones and the list goes on and on.
These are crimes that take place underground, hidden from the public, so there is a tendency for many of us to turn a blind eye towards these abuses because we are not seeing it. So we are here today to say loud and clear that slavery still exists. It is destroying millions of lives around the world and it is our moral obligation to do something about it.
In California we have, of course, done a lot of things about this. In California we have enacted some of the toughest laws to punish human traffickers. I signed legislation, for instance, to increase financial penalties by 400 percent and to make human trafficking a felony here in California and we also created a Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11th each year. We also formed partnerships with Mexican government to combat traffic along the border.
So there are a lot of things that were done but yet success will require a team effort. Everyone has to work together here, that's the important thing, government and businesses that often unknowingly benefit from slave labor. The sad reality is that slave labor is used to create products that you and I use every day and we are not aware of it, so businesses do have an obligation to be part of the solution.
Now, there was someone that asked me, "isn't that a job killer, this bill?"
I said, "no, it's a lifesaver." That's what this bill is; it's a lifesaver.
Now, the legislation that we are celebrating here today and that I'm about to sign is Senate Bill 657. This is a bill that has been authored by Senator Steinberg and I just want to say again it's one of those great bills that you have been responsible for and that this man works very hard. And you know, sometimes we have disagreements on issues, (Laughter) but there is -- more often we agree --
Right. That's right.
-- on issues. That's the important thing here. And this is, again, one of those things.
Those kind of bills are not easy to do and I just want to say to Julia Ormond -- you have been up there, you have hustled me, you have come --(Laughter, applause) I just want to let people know that those bills don't just happen overnight. I mean, she came, Julia came up and she visited with the legislature, she visited and went around from office to office talking to them, talking to Senator Steinberg. Then they both came down together, then she came down alone and she did all her charm and did this and that so many times. (Laughter) And you know, it was really extraordinary.
But the bottom line was it didn't take much to convince me, like I said. This was an issue that I am a big believer in. But I want to just say thank you. Let's give her a big hand for the great, great work that she has done. (Applause) And thank you for the great work the Senator has done.
Thank you, Governor.
Yeah, absolutely. Now, this bill requires businesses -- it's a very simple bill -- it requires businesses to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery from their supply chain. That's what it basically is. This will increase transparency, allow consumers to get more information and make more choices and motivate businesses to ensure humane practices. That's what this is about.
Of course this is not a silver bullet, by any means but what it does is, it really makes government and businesses work together. It creates, again, a spotlight for this particular issue and it will save lives and help to end this terrible, terrible thing that is going on against humanity. And this is what this is all about, this is our responsibility and so I'm very happy, after everyone has spoken, to go and sign this bill into law.
Thank you very much and now I would like to bring out Senator Steinberg to say a few words.
Thank you, Governor. Congratulations. (Applause) Thank you, thank you very much, Governor. You know, up until just a few moments ago I thought it was my charm that led you to sign the bill. (Laughter)
It is, it is. (Laughter)
I want to thank you very, very much for signing this simple yet historic piece of legislation. This has been a number of years in the making. And you're right -- we agree, we disagree and yet, you know, we're on the same page more than not and I appreciate your leadership on this issue and so many others. Thank you, Governor.
I also want to thank Rabbi Hier and the Wiesenthal Center for having us here today. It could not be a more perfect place to hold this signing ceremony.
I want to thank the three cosponsors, the Alliance to Stop Slavery and Trafficking, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking and the Consumer Federation of California. This bill would not have been possible without them.
I also just want to take a moment to give some personal thanks to Mufaddal Ezzy of my staff, who worked tirelessly on this legislation. (Applause) And Barry Broad, who did just the same -- Barry Broad. You worked endlessly, thank you. (Applause)
You know, in Sacramento we sometimes pass complex legislation whose impact is unclear at best. And then sometimes we pass a clear and understandable law which reverberates throughout the state, the nation and changes lives for the better. Such is the case with Senate Bill 657.
The Governor gave the statistics a few moments ago but it's a sad fact that California is among the top destinations for traffickers and forced labor in the United States. We too often inadvertently sanction and promote these crimes at home and abroad through the purchase of goods and products that are tainted in the supply chain. Last year the United States Department of Labor released a report which found that 122 goods from 58 countries were suspected to be tainted by forced labor and other human rights violations.
And California, even in its most difficult times, is still an economic powerhouse. We account for $1.8 trillion of the nation's total economic activity. We imported alone $200 billion in merchandise from abroad in the first quarter of 2009 alone. Those big numbers tell you why this legislation is so important, because with that level of economic activity, that level of imports, in this economy when people are more vulnerable than ever to become victims of these heinous crimes, human trafficking, turning a blind eye is unacceptable.
This landmark measure provides the world's most important commodity, information, to consumers, to businesses, to the media and to the public. Businesses, subject to this bill, will have an extra reason to do the right thing, to make sure that their supply chain is not tainted by human trafficking.
Finally, the Wiesenthal Center, in my view, is the appropriate place to hold this ceremony, for trafficking in human beings represents among the very worst of humanity. Simon Wiesenthal taught us that vigilance in ending evil begins with exposing it. The exposure required by SB 657 is a crucial beginning to ending the scourge of human trafficking.
It is my honor to introduce the original sponsor of this legislation, the president of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, the former goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime. And you know, all of those titles don't really speak to the incredible dedication and passion and perseverance that it took to get us here today. Please give a warm welcome to the award-winning actress but human rights activist Julia Ormond, my friend.
Thank you all for coming. Good afternoon, Honorable Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Steinberg, partners and supports of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act.
I initially engaged around the issue of slavery and human trafficking, shocked and spurred into action by reports of sex trafficking. Nothing then seemed to me more heinous than the repeated rape and violence that its victims endured. Although the first victims that I met were California-based, other travels around the world to Russia, Ghana, Thailand, Cambodia, India and Europe provided me with a wider perspective of how slavery pervades my own life. People often ask me, "Where is it worst?"
And my answer is always, "In my own home."
What keeps me up at night and what haunts me are the victims' stories. While I will never forget the girl who crawled out of an eighth-floor window for fear of her life in sex slavery, I can neither forget the child enslaved in the fishing industry who jumped ship into the Thai sea to float on a barrel for two days and a night before being rescued, or the child who was chained and burnt while working on our carpets, or the child soldier who had to burn his village, kill his mother and rape his sister, fighting someone else's war. Or the stories of the artisanal miner of gold who had a two-year life expectancy, or the enslaved garment worker -- maybe making my clothing -- or the footage of a Mayan agricultural worker trapped in Florida possibly picking my tomatoes. The victims of forced labor and forced sex slavery are all deserving of our compassion, attention and commitment.
The U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons' most recent report states that the majority of human trafficking in the world takes the form of forced labor. The International Labor Organization has recently stated that for every one person forced into the sex trade nine people are forced to work. Many of these victims are found in agriculture and mining and their labor is found in many of the products that we purchase and rely on every day such as coffee, chocolate, clothes, electronics, even the brake pads in our cars.
We all have a role to play in supporting solutions and solutions there are many. Sex will always sell, whether the story is good or bad but we need the media to cover this issue proportionately and we need media outlets to set aside their fear of losing advertising revenue and articulate how businesses can use their supply chains as a map to illuminate the worst areas of poverty in the world where slavery and trafficking take hold.
As advocates we need to do a better job articulating to the public the enormous challenges that today's complex supply chains present to businesses. We need to articulate that the CEO is most often not the criminal; that it's this criminal activity tainting their supply chain, most often around source materials, just as shoplifting is a criminal activity occurring at the other end of the supply chain, at the point of purchase.
We need companies to leverage their influence, to come to the table and collaborate in finding better solutions, to work with governments and the NGO community who can offer victims safety and rehabilitation and can assist vulnerable communities. We cannot accurately and efficiently access victims without the assistance of the companies that influence and affect its supply chains.
Consumers can support businesses that are creating better practices, using their purchasing power to encourage them to bring their expertise and knowledge of supply chains into the equations.
Investors can influence corporate governance and social responsibility practices, providing incentives to companies to elevate human rights and place them right at the heart of their strategy.
The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, authored by Senator Steinberg and signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger, requires retail sellers and manufacturers operating in California with over $100 million in worldwide gross receipts to publicly disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains. The law will apply to just over 3,000 companies, who represent approximately 87 percent of economic activity.
This new law is one small step in a long journey, forged by others, that ASSET was honored to join, some of whom are present here today. I hope, if it is applied well, that it will represent a watershed in the sharing of knowledge and will enable active consumer and investor engagement and encourage a pooling of resources and will get us closer to concrete, measurable results.
I cannot personally thank Governor Schwarzenegger enough for signing a bill that he frankly didn't have to. And I cannot thank Senator Steinberg enough for showing me that a politician can still have a moral backbone and a concern -- not that you don't -- (Laughter) and a concern for fundamental human rights. And I cannot thank enough those others who worked towards and supported this bill's passage. I want to thank Alison Kiehl Friedman, who is here today and Chris Miller, my staff.
One of these organizations here with us today is the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking, CAST. CAST is California's longest-running anti-slavery and trafficking organization and it's very safe to say that this bill would not have passed without their co-sponsorship. (Applause) And I'd like to introduce you to CAST's fabulous executive director, Kay Buck. (Applause) Thank you.
Good afternoon NGO community everyone and thank you for that introduction, Julia. Before I start my remarks I also want to thank the Museum of Tolerance for an incredible year of partnership. We started the public awareness campaign back in January of this year and, as you can see, the fruits of our labor are here today, so thank you for hosting this event with us today.
Good afternoon, Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Steinberg, all of our valued partners -- I see many of you in the audience -- and supporters of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act.
Today marks a historic moment in the fight against modern-day slavery. Today we witness the creation of the first state law in this country that fights human slavery and corporate supply chains, the first step to a multi-faceted solution to help end the demand for slave labor. Today California once again takes the lead by letting the world know that we put the human rights of workers first and will not support the demand for goods tainted by slave labor.
As the first organization in the country founded to care for victims of slavery CAST, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, has witnessed firsthand the impact of slavery on the women and the children and the men who come through our door each and every day for a safe haven.
I suppose that you could say that we are a refuge for survivors but I really like to think of our work more as investing in survivors, investing in the power of human resilience. And it is this resilience of our clients that inspired CAST, along with our partners and bill co-sponsor, Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, to take action. Now a new transparency in supply chains will take the necessary step to improve the human condition for workers around the world.
We are so grateful to Senator Steinberg and his staff for shining such an important light on fighting forced labor and human trafficking in corporate supply chains. Consumers and investors alike now have a tool to get basic information about a company's efforts to eradicate slave labor from its supply chain and companies who are acting responsibly now have a more level playing field with corporations who manufacture products tainted by slave labor. Most importantly, this bill supports victims of slavery and vulnerable workers everywhere by sending a clear message that they matter.
A new awareness of slavery and human trafficking created a demand by consumers, by all of us here in the room, who want to make socially responsible purchases. But consumers needed a way to know what they were buying. Now they do. Californians now have a way to help end slavery for good. Thank you again, Governor Schwarzenegger, for making history today.
I spoke of the incredible resilience of survivors who inspired this bill and at CAST they truly are our inspiration each and every day. And I have the great privilege of introducing a member of the CAST Survivor Caucus, a leadership development program for survivors of slavery, all of whom made the California Transparency and Supply Chains Act a reality today. Please welcome Flor Molina. (Applause)
Honorable Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Steinberg, CAST colleagues and friends, it is an honor for me to be here today to witness the signing of the Supply Chain Transparency Act 2010, especially because I know firsthand the importance of creating this legislation. I am a survivor of forced labor in the garment industry right here in Los Angeles. I was forced to sew clothing that was being sold to major department stores. Had these department stores looked into their supply chain I might have been freed earlier than I was or, better yet, I may not have been enslaved in the first place.
I was an easy target for my trafficker. I was a desperate mother looking for a way to provide for my three children. I was told that I would have a good job with good pay and a place where to live. When I got here I was locked in the factory and forced to work 17 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
After I escaped I was helped by CAST, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. They helped me find a shelter and worked with me to get back on my feet. For the last few years I have been a member of the CAST Survivor Advisory Caucus. I and other members of the caucus speak up against slavery not because we are not afraid but because we want to make sure that what happened to us doesn't happen to anyone else.
The CAST Survivor Advisory Caucus fought hard for this bill to pass. We testified at hearings, we wrote letters and got signatures for our petition. Our voices were heard and action was taken, action that will, hopefully, protect others from falling prey to traffickers like we once did. I am proud to stand here, not as a victim of slavery but as a powerful agent of change. (Applause)
Please, Governor Schwarzenegger, will you please sign the legislation? (Laughter, applause)
(Bill signing, applause)
GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER:Rabbi Hier, thank you very much. (Applause) Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you all. Have a good day. (Applause)