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SB 657 Passes Out of Assembly Judiciary Committee

(SACRAMENTO)– Advocates to end human trafficking today testified in support of Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s (D-Sacramento) legislation which combats slavery and human trafficking by requiring large retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to tell consumers on their websites what steps, if any, they take to ensure their product supply chains are free of slavery and trafficking.

California is among the top destinations for traffickers and forced labor in the United States.  Over 500 victims from 18 countries were identified in California between 1998 and 2003 and many more are never discovered.

“We inadvertently sanction and promote these crimes at home and abroad through the purchase of tainted goods and products,” Steinberg said.  “By giving consumers the power of information they can leverage their purchasing decisions to encourage retailers and manufacturers to keep their supply chain free of trafficking and slavery.”

SB 657, The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee today following emotional testimony from a victim of slavery in the Los Angeles garment industry who was forced to work 18 hour days making dresses that were to be sold at major department stores.  She described the physical and verbal abuse she endured from her trafficker who brought her to California with false promises of a good paying job to support her family back home and housing and food assistance.  She was forced to clean the factory in the middle of the night once other employees went home.  She was provided only one meal a day, slept in the factory’s storage room on a small mattress she shared with another victim, and had to bathe from a bucket- all while receiving no wages.  It wasn’t until the FBI received a tip from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the help of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking that she was able to regain her freedom.

Actress Julia Ormond, founder and president of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking also expressed support for the legislation.  “Business has a vital role to play in using their supply chains as the road map to tackling strategically and impactfully the worst forms of poverty on the planet…and has an opportunity to use it as a tool to spread American values across the globe.” Ormond said.

Existing state and federal laws make human trafficking a crime.  They provide various penalties for offenders and support for victims, but they do little to address the growing markets that consume products tainted with slavery and trafficking. 

The bills next stop is the Assembly floor.

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