Yesterday, media flocked to a story that, as the Associated Press reports, "Federal agents raided a migrant farm labor camp where homeless men and women were kept in what labor officials called a version of modern-day slavery."
Officials said homeless people were recruited to the Evans Labor Camp through offers of room and board, along with alcohol, tobacco and drugs, which they bought on credit. But they never made enough in the field to pay it off, according to an investigative summary.
"A lot of times, they get them indebted even before they get back to the camp," federal agent Rebecca Hall said.
Of course, there have been a steady flow of stories about slavery -- especially in Florida farmworker camps -- over the years. This writer at DKos higlights some recent stories -- and criticizes Gov. Jeb Bush's inaction.
As the DKos post illustrates, the approach of many well-meaning people is to call for more law enforcement and/or consumer approaches like "buying organic." As good as these are, I would point Facing South readers to several great groups that are taking a more comprehensive approach to the problem.
One of my favorites is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers -- a worker-led organiztaion in southern Florida -- has spear-headed an anti-slavery campaign. The group takes a two-tiered approach: on the one hand, reaching out to workers to uncover and investigate charges of slavery, and co-operating with law enforcement (when it makes sense) to bring a legal crack-down. But they also build up the power of workers and their allies to get to the root of the problem:
At the same time, the CIW believes that the ultimate solution to modern-day slavery in agribusiness lies on the "demand side" of the US produce market -- the major food-buying corporations that profit from the artificially-low cost of US produce picked by workers in sweatshop and, in the worst cases, slavery conditions. Ultimately, those modern mega corporations must leverage their vast resources and market influence as major produce buyers to clean up slavery and other labor abuses in their supply chains once and for all.
Both aspects of the Anti-Slavery Campaign -- the day-to-day investigative efforts and the longer-term work to eliminate the market conditions that allow modern-day slavery to flourish -- operate on the common principle that the most effective weapon against forced labor is an aware worker community engaged in the defense of its own labor rights.
If you want to stop slavery -- and exploitation of workers in all its forms -- I strongly endorse making a contribution to the Coalition here.