State News
6:44 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Effort Launched To Help Florida Businesses Recognize Human Trafficking

Florida officials are launching a new effort to teach Florida businesses how to prevent human trafficking in their industry. The initiative spearheaded by Attorney General Pam Bondi targets industries typically associated with the practice, like the hotel and agriculture industries.

Bondi has made ending human trafficking in Florida a major priority. She says the state should have a zero-tolerance policy for what’s called modern-day slavery.

“Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar business that exploits women and children and 27 million people are enslaved worldwide. Human trafficking consists of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking and sadly, it’s happening right here in our state. Of the calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Florida ranks third. And, it has to stop," said Bondi.

And, Bondi’s hoping that through a project she created aimed at getting Florida businesses more involved in combating human trafficking, the state will lose its number three ranking. Her initiative is an online toolkit to assist businesses in creating their own policies to root out human trafficking.

“We have to approach this as an ‘all hands on deck’ effort to stop human trafficking,” Bondi added.

Bondi also enlisted the help of Human Trafficking Expert Terry Coonan. He’s with Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. Coonan will help businesses make their own training sessions to create their own anti-trafficking plans.

“The larger business or corporation may not know that the low bid that comes to them is actually based on slave-like labor. So, working with our corporations to try and root out as well as help the very legitimate business who are losing out on bids to the sub-contractor that is relying on slave labor,” said Coonan.

Coonan says he’ll also be helping businesses and their employees learn to spot the signs of a trafficking victim.

“Why does that person have welts on their faces? Why don’t they have control of their own identity documents? Is their pay actually being given to someone else on the Friday at the end of the week. So, it requires literally scratching beneath the surface, asking more questions and trying to find out why is it that person may be a victim, though they may not look like a victim initially,” Coonan added.

And, industry groups, like the Florida Trucking Association are already on board. Here’s the group’s President and CEO Mary Lou Rajchel.

“We have drivers who are on the highways on the roads of our state, and in many ways, those are our eyes and ears that are going to be very, very important to the identification of this problem and the eradication of it. So, it’s our pleasure to be a part of this process to assist the state of Florida in this effort,” said Rajchel.

Other groups involved in the effort include the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Restaurant Lodging Association. Bondi says her next step is getting the agriculture industry involved.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.