Everything You Need To Know About Labor Trafficking

Everything You Need To Know About Labor Trafficking

When we hear the term “human trafficking,” most of us immediately think of sex trafficking. In reality, labor trafficking is more prevalent than sex trafficking both locally and globally. Here’s everything you need to know about labor trafficking:

The Numbers: Sex Trafficking vs. Labor Trafficking

The International Labor Organization (ILO) in partnership with Walk Free Foundation in 2017 estimated that 4.8 million people are victims of sex trafficking worldwide. 

But as large and devastating as that number is, sex trafficking only represents a small portion of the global human trafficking problem. 

There are 20.1 million people worldwide who are victims of labor trafficking.

16 million are exploited in the private sector – domestic work, agriculture, construction, etc. – while 4.1 million are exploited through state-imposed labor. 

That makes labor trafficking more than FOUR TIMES as common as sex trafficking globally. 

Labor trafficking is more than four times as common as sex trafficking

What is labor trafficking?

When somebody is compelled to work through force, fraud, or coercion, this is considered labor trafficking. 


“After working in the factory all day, the overseers locked us in our sleeping quarters so we couldn’t leave during the night.” 


“Recruiters promised me certain wages when I agreed to the job, but then they took my visa and told me I had to work for much less than promised if I wanted it back.” 


“My boss told me if I tried to quit, they would hurt my children.” 

Does labor trafficking happen in the United States?

In 2021, The National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 4,214 likely victims of labor trafficking – 3,583 victims of labor trafficking only and 631 victims of sex and labor trafficking. 

This number of reported victims, however, barely scratches the surface of the problem.

The University of Texas at Austin in 2016 estimated that more than 300,000 adults are trafficked for labor in Texas alone each year. 

Labor exploitation is a broad concept while labor violations and labor trafficking are legal terms.

What are labor exploitation and labor violations?

How do they relate to labor trafficking?

‘Labor trafficking’ and ‘labor violations’ are legal terms with legal definitions, while ‘labor exploitation’ is not.

According to the Laboratory of to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT), a labor violation is when “employers violate federal, state, or municipal laws related to worker treatment, workplace safety, or recordkeeping requirements.” Examples of labor violations include not paying overtime and/or paying below minimum wage. 

Like the adage “a square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle is not always a square,” labor violations are always labor exploitation… but labor exploitation does not always equal labor violations. 

Labor exploitation can also describe practices that are legal but considered morally/socially objectionable – such as paying workers low (but at least minimum) wages when workers assert their job deserves more compensation – while labor trafficking and labor violations are crimes by definition.

Remember: for an act to be considered labor trafficking, there must be elements of force, fraud, and/or coercion.

95% of reported labor trafficking victims were foreign nationals

Who is at risk of becoming trafficked for labor?

In the United States, immigrants and refugees are highly vulnerable to labor trafficking.

In 2020, The National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 2,765 likely labor trafficking victims by immigration status: either domestic individuals (US citizens and legal permanent residents) or foreign nationals.

95% of these labor trafficking victims were foreign nationals. 

Traffickers take advantage of new immigrants and refugees because they often do not know domestic labor laws. They also generally fear deportation, which gives a trafficker’s threats an even sharper edge and severely deters victims from speaking out. 

In what industries does human trafficking occur most?

According to a 2014 report by the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center in collaboration with Northeastern University, the US industries with the highest rates of labor trafficking victimization are agriculture, hospitality, domestic work, and construction. 

It is common for someone to experience sex and labor trafficking at the same time

How do sex and labor trafficking intersect? 

It is common for someone to experience sex and labor trafficking at the same time.

As mentioned previously, The National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 631 likely victims of sex and labor trafficking in 2020. 

For example, an immigrant nanny could be defrauded out of their visa to make them compliant to their employer’s demands, while also being forced into having sex with their trafficker’s friends. 

How can you fight labor trafficking?

If you suspect somebody is being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 3737-888.

If we suspect a person is being exploited for labor, we need to ask 2 questions to determine if it is human trafficking:

  1. How did the person come to have this job? (Were they recruited, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, patronized, or solicited into the job?) 
  2. Was the person forced, defrauded, or coerced into taking or staying in the job? 

If you answer “yes” to both those questions, it’s human trafficking.

Read this blog to learn how to identify labor trafficking and other forms of human trafficking in your personal and professional life.

Request a free education workshop – virtual or in-person – to learn more! 

Shop Fair Trade

Lastly, it is virtually impossible to buy ONLY products that are ethically sourced and that can be guaranteed to have no labor trafficking occur during ANY part of the production process. This is a devastating fact of our modern world. This does not mean, however, that we should not try our best to consume responsibly when possible. 

We can research companies and see what, if any, responsible sourcing/supply chain responsibility protocols they use. If they do not, we can demand they do so. We can shop fair trade if/when we can afford it. While these are small steps, they can help us feel like we have just a little more control over how the goods we buy get to our carts.

Check out Fair Trade Certified’s website to find ethically sourced products.

12 Holiday Gifts To Fight Human Trafficking

12 Holiday Gifts To Fight Human Trafficking

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! This last-minute gift idea list will make your holiday shopping a breeze.

Between the gems of local Houston small businesses and the brands carried by our favorite chain stores, ethical products are very attainable for the average consumer. 

Local Businesses

One of my personal favorite spots to shop responsibly is at the 11th Street Market hosted by A 2nd Cup, Houston’s non-profit coffee shop working to end human trafficking.

This monthly market is a great opportunity to visit and meet the owners of ethically sourced small businesses and browse the large array of products offered at their booths.

While perusing various brands, I found a diverse list of gift ideas for every member of the family!

Au Naturals

1.  Au Naturals


For the environmentally conscious lovers of beauty, Au Naturals Body Care offers locally made products with unique recipes made from organic ingredients.


Gift Set: $55

2. Benschop + Beck

Benschop + Beck offers custom pieces to decorate your loved one’s home, and the one of a kind works of art are as unique as they are.


Benschop + Beck

3. Divercity


You can show off your Houston pride with the eco-friendly brand Diverscity Clothing. The value of celebrating our city’s diversity is a core aspect of this local company.


Backpack: $50

4. Gold Clover Company


For fun accessories of all styles, Gold Clover Company has so much to choose from! Not only are you giving back to local businesses, but also the community with $1 from each purchase donated to The Bee Community.

Necklace: $54


Gold Clover Company
Redemption Song Foundation

5. Redemption Song Foundation


Redemption Song Foundation features handmade baskets, jewelry, and more to support growing healthy communities and sustainable practices in Uganda.


Green Lidded Basket: $10

6. Refuge For Women Gulf Coast


Check out these survivor-made gifts at Refuge for Women Gulf Coast! For those who don’t favor material gifts, consider sponsoring a room, which allows women survivors of trafficking and sexual exploitation to receive safe housing, counseling, and life and works skill development.

Large Warmer Winter Bundle: $40


Refuge for Women Gulf Coast

To view even more local businesses’ products and stories, visit the 11th Street Market webpage or visit in-store at A 2nd Cup.

Fair Trade Finds At Target

Target and Whole Foods are good places to find ethically sourced and responsibly manufactured products too.


7. Goodweave


Target partners with Goodweave to create opportunities for childhood education, fair working conditions, and sustainable practices in the textile industry.

8. Green Toys


Another Target partner, Green Toys, is the perfect brand to find recycled toys for children manufactured in the USA while guaranteeing fair labor and a responsible supply chain.


Rocket: $25


Green Toys
W3ll People

9. W3LL People

Ethical makeup and cosmetics can be a struggle to find, but W3LL PEOPLE provides natural, non-toxic, and cruelty-free beauty products at your local Target.

Environmentally friendly and sustainable ingredients paired with ethical labor practices by hand-making their products in the USA is a win-win for any consumer.

Lipstick: $15

10. Meow Meow Tweet


The bath and body products from Meow Meow Tweet in Target stores share the same mission with only organic and fair-trade ingredients while handmaking every product in the USA. An added bonus, the packaging contains no plastic and reduces environmental waste.

Candle & Soap Duo: $35


Meow Meow Tweet

11. Threshold


Target also carries Threshold linens, towels, and certified bedding that are both organic and Oeko-Tex Certified to protect textile workers from commercial pesticides and toxic chemicals.

Blanket: $30

12. Equal Exchange

Equal Exchange can be found in multiple retailers, including Target! Their coffee and chocolate are fair-trade certified, which means they ensure ethical labor and sustainable practices in their supply chains.

Equal Exchange also supports small scale farmers in developing areas to foster growth in their communities and quality of life, so these treats are the perfect way for your loved one to indulge while giving back!

Solidarity Box: $50


Equal Exchange

Fair Trade At Whole Foods & Wal-Mart

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is the go-to spot for ethically sourced food and other products. Showing your love through treats and dishes made from responsibly sourced ingredients is a breeze with the quality standards, be certified or supported by an approved third-party verifier, come from a supplier with a transparent relationship to Whole Foods, and have a measurable and positive impact on workers in their supply chains, communities and the environment.

Even their flowers follow these fair trade specifications, so spice up your gifts with some naturally beautiful flourishes.


Walmart sports a new fashion brand, Free Assembly, with eco-conscious clothing items at affordable prices for everyone in the family!


Happy Shopping!

Whether you need clothes, accessories, art pieces, or sweet treats to put together for the fast approaching holidays, these brands offer everything you need and more! Our favorite stores are making it easier than ever to be an environmentally conscious and ethically sourced consumer with so many l products to choose from. Happy shopping!

How to Change the World with Fair Trade Subscription Boxes

How to Change the World with Fair Trade Subscription Boxes

As October comes to an end, spooky season gives way to the holidays. I don’t know about you, but my family is already asking for my holiday wish list!

What better way to show someone you care with a thoughtful and unique gift?

Buying fair trade certified items not only make your loved ones feel special, but also support ethical brands and their families.

Shopping in the age of a pandemic is difficult enough for consumers. Small businesses and their workers are suffering due to corporate consolidation and supply chain disruption. Many have curated unique subscription boxes as a safe alternative way to accessing ethically made and fair trade certified goods. 

GreenUp Subscription box

Green up

GreenUP Box is a great way to introduce your family to zero waste and plastic free products into their everyday life. This brand is perfect for the environmentally conscious!



To promote artisans and socially-conscious emerging brands, CAUSEBOX is an easy way to personalize each delivery especially for the recipient. They offer a little of everything, so you can’t go wrong with these diverse ethical products.

Equal Exchange Solidarity Box

Equal Exchange Solidarity box

Finally, Equal Exchange has formed the Solidarity Box. Long term partnerships with farmers gives more opportunities to their families and business. They have curated their best-selling products to allow consumers to help take a stand and promote fair trade.

Purchasing fair trade certified products helps support farmers and small businesses and gives back to their communities. I challenge you to find a fair trade item for yourself or to gift someone this holiday season! Happy shopping!

We have to know the signs of labor trafficking and exploitation, and we need to be engaged as consumers if we truly want to create a world where all are free. Here’s how you can keep learning:

Learn more now, during fair trade month!

In celebration of Fair Trade Month, UAHT is hosting events to encourage viewers to ask questions and learn more about fair trade.

We will be airing a viewing of the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” on Thursday, October 29th from 6-7:30 PM CST.

This documentary and discussion will feature a guest speaker to answer questions about what fair trade is and how consumers can get more involved in the movement.

We will also be releasing new episodes of Making Justice, including an episode with Equal Exchange.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to learn more information and hear about the impact that fair trade has on others!