11 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself At Storefront Shops

11 Vital Questions to Ask Yourself At Storefront Shops

UAHT is producing a five-part series on labor trafficking. Through this blog series, we are providing information and tips to identify labor trafficking! 

Today, we are focusing on how to spot red flags in storefront shops like grocery or clothing stores. 

As a customer, you may spot signs of labor trafficking in stores that you regularly visit. We want you to be equipped with the right questions to ask yourself before you report your suspicions! 

Remember every case of trafficking is different, and there’s no single form. These questions are a guide, not a formula.

Storefront Shops

Staff Behavior Can Indicate Human Labor Trafficking

Staff Behavior

1. How are workers communicating with you?

Do responses seem scripted or limited beyond cultural/language barriers? Workers could be coached on what to say so they do not reveal details about their exploitation. Is another manager or employee watching you when you talk to the worker?  

2. Do workers seem to have no or limited social interactions at their workplace?

Their freedom of communication may be monitored by their trafficker as a means of control.

3. Does a worker not seem to know their work address or the area where the business is located?

Their knowledge of geographic location might be controlled, or they may be moved around frequently, to limit their ability to escape.

4. Do they mention being “on call” for shifts or work long hours a day?

This may be a signal that they aren’t really free to decide when and how much they work, and that the employer has constant ability to demand their labor—to which they can’t say no. While this type of employment isn’t a de facto sign of trafficking—irregular hours are a part of shift labor—if it’s combined with other red flags, it could be a sign.  

 

Store Environment Can Indicate Human Labor Trafficking

Store Environment

5. What do the working conditions seem like?

Do workers seem to have little to no breaks, excessive hours, and/or harsh working conditions? Do employers/managers seem to treat them well? 

6. Are there any safety hazards?

This may look like blocked or unlabeled safety exits, stock storage that seems unsafe or unstable in the work area, uneven pathways around the store that could trip someone, etc. If a workplace reflects an attitude of not caring about the physical safety of employees, the owners might be harming them in other, less visible ways.  

7. Are goods produced on-site?

If so, you should be able to ask the crafter themselves about their work. If they seem reluctant to speak about it, or display any of the below behavioral signs, take note. This could be a sign of exploitation or trafficking of manufacturers 

 

Control over finances can indicate human labor trafficking

Financial Control

8. Does a worker mention being paid less than your state’s minimum wage?

Contrary to popular belief, some trafficked persons are actually paid for their labor. It’s just that in trafficking cases, they tend to be paid significantly less than is legal, or be forced to give some of their wages back to their traffickers (as “payment” for food, housing, travel costs to the trafficking site if applicable, etc) as a form of forced servitude. In Texas, minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage–$7.25 an hour.

Ask Questions to Identify Human Trafficking

Ask Directly

If it is safe and you feel comfortable, you can ask an employee a few questions. Do not force answers. 

You can strike up a casual conversaion:

9. How’d you get this job?

If they mention a romantic partner or family member pressuring them to take it, that could be an indicator. Most traffickers aren’t strangers to the victim; they’re more likely to be people the victim knows directly. It’s a relationship that is being exploited through force, fraud, or coercion, and it’s important to get stereotypes out of our heads when thinking about trafficking.  

10. What made you want to start working here?

Again, if they mention pressure from partners or family members, take notice.  

11. How do you like working here? 

This can give the worker an opening to mention red flags on their own terms—long hours, owing a debt, their employer withholding their identification documents, and so on.  

What to do when you notice red flags of human trafficking

What To Do If You Notice Multiple Red Flags

Now that you have this handy list of signs, here’s what to do if you suspect labor trafficking:

1. Wait until you are off-location

In order to protect yourself and the potential victim from punishment or being moved from the location, wait until you are out-of-sight and out-of-earshot of potential traffickers.

2. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888

If it has taken place in the Houston area, please contact us at United Against Human Trafficking to report your credible tip. We offer direct services, including case management for victims of human trafficking.

3. Inform others of these red flags, and let them know about the issue.

Spreading awareness is the first step in this journey towards freedom for all, and community members like you are an important part of that step. Spread the word!  

3 Survivors You Helped in 2019

3 Survivors You Helped in 2019

As we near the end of 2019, we want to say thank you. Your support throughout the year ensures that we can work in our community, helping people understand human trafficking and supporting those who have endured it. You are the reason that it’s possible.

Because of you, 89 victims are reciving care.

Because of you, over 8,000 community members can spot and report trafficking.

Because of you, over 3,000 teenagers can protect themselves from traffickers.

We can’t wait to share a few stories of the people you helped in 2019:

Zoe

Sitting in her principal’s office, Zoe’s knee bounced rapidly as she uttered the scariest words to ever escape her mouth, “I need help.”

Zoe was being trafficked and she knew 3 other girls who were too.

Due to a complicated family life, Zoe always wore the same dirty clothes and never seemed to wear deodorant. She ran away from home a few times and frequently skipped school.

At just 12-years-old, Zoe caught a boy’s interest. He showered her with new clothes, shoes, and credit cards. Soon, she became his girlfriend. Zoe longed to leave her troubled home and fully commit to her generous boyfriend.

In the veil of darkness, she crept out her front door to her boyfriend’s car, leaving home for good. Then everything changed.

The boy sold Zoe for sex at a hotel on the Southwest side of Houston. Night after night, men raped her while her boyfriend profited.

Two years later, Zoe attended one of our youth workshops at her school. (Yes, while being trafficked she still attended school like any other teenager!) She learned what human trafficking was and realized that was her story. Although confused and scared, she didn’t ask for help – yet.

After enduring life with her pimp for another year, she was desperate to get out.

Remembering our workshop, she knew exactly where she could find help. She confided in her principal and asked to speak to us. As soon as she got a call from the principal, Au’Vonnie, our Youth Specialist, leapt into action. She rushed to the school to meet with Zoe and patiently listened to her heart wrenching story. Au’Vonnie connected Zoe to people who gave her a place to rest, warm food, clean clothes, and counseling.

As you read this, Zoe has a safe place to sleep. Now she has an advocate. Now she has someone she can trust. All because of YOU.

Robert

As Robert munched on his BBQ sandwich, he soaked in the sounds around him: upbeat music playing over the loudspeakers, birds chirping, cars whizzing past on the freeway.

Amid it all, he overheard a young woman, “labor trafficking is when someone forces or tricks you into doing something you don’t want to do so they can make money.”

Robert didn’t know anyone at the plastic table, but he piped up anyway, “Hey! Labor trafficking… I think that’s what’s happening to me.”

The young woman introduced herself, “I’m Briana; I work for an organization that can help. Tell me what’s going on.”

Living on the streets, Robert found an opportunity that would improve his fortune. A man offered him a construction job. The pay included wages, a place to sleep in a new home, food to eat, and laundry services. Robert excitedly accepted the position.

He moved into the house, yet realized it was barely a house. No walls, no sheetrock, it was just wooden beams and insulation. Robert’s boss promised that it would be finished soon. But for now, if he wanted a job, he would have to live there and share the space with others.

Robert labored outside in the Houston heat, constructing homes and beautifying landscapes, but his boss refused to provide food or water. Dehydrated and hungry, Robert couldn’t even afford to buy his own lunch because his boss withheld most of Robert’s paycheck for “rent and miscellaneous charges.”

Exhausted, Robert finally had enough. He quit. Robert’s boss demanded he gather the necessary belongings for the day and come back later for the rest. But when Robert tried to retrieve the rest of his belongings, the boss threatened to keep everything unless Robert agreed to work for him again.

After our Outreach Specialist Briana listened to Robert’s story, she connected him to the Department of Labor, which is currently reviewing his case in hopes of getting Robert’s wages back.

Today, Robert has a new job working for a fair and kind employer who gives him a ride to work and provides lunch. Now, Robert affords his own safe apartment—one filled with more than just wooden beams and insulation, but with a cozy bed and a kitchen.

 

Yet there are thousands of men in Houston with a similar story as Robert’s. We know you are as outraged as we are at this injustice. Will you give a gift to help end their exploitation and give them a chance to experience the freedom we all enjoy?

Rene

“Here’s how you can contact us at UAHT,” Sarah concluded, gesturing to the screen.

The crowd, full of non-profit workers and government employees, slowly stowed away their note pads and pens and traipsed through the door. Except for one person.

Rene quickly strode to the front of the room, where Sarah just turned off the projector. Her eyebrows lowered with concern as she whispered, “I think one of my girls is being trafficked.”

Rene works for the Juvenile Probation Department and alarm bells went off in her head as she listened to our Education Coordinator Sarah highlight red flags of trafficking. Rene recalled a 14-year-old girl in her care who was known for running away, skipping school, and leaving in the middle of the night. On her forearm was a tattoo of a man’s name.

“What can I do?” Rene asked with hope in her voice.

Rene set up a time for our Youth Specialist, Au’Vonnie, to meet the girl. After sharing her story, it was clear—she was a victim of trafficking.

Au’Vonnie connected the girl and her parents to an advocate who is guiding her through the long-term recovery process. She’s safe because Rene attended our training and knew what to look out for.

Because of generous supporters like you, we train thousands of people to engage in this fight within their current work.

We are deeply grateful for your impact in these survivors’ lives. As we approach the season of giving, will you ensure the gift of freedom for our men, women, and children? Your support means more people like Zoe, Robert, and Rene live free from exploitation.

3 Fair Trade Halloween Candy That Are Affordable

3 Fair Trade Halloween Candy That Are Affordable

Halloween is just around the corner! As you stock up on candy for Trick or Treaters, consider offering fair trade treats!

We know that finding fair trade halloween candy can be challenging, and when you do find ethically-sourced treats, they can be quite expensive! So we made it easy and did the research for you. Here are 3 affordable candy options that don’t use slave labor:

1. Skull & Ghost Lollipops
by Wholesome

These perfectly themed lollipops are just $12.99 for 30 suckers! 

Based on the simple idea that the products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others, fair trade is a way to make a conscious choice for a better world.” – Fair Trade Certified

2. Halloween Gummy Snacks by Surf Sweets

Gummy snacks are a great alternative to hard candies or chocolate! You get 20 packs of these spooky snacks for $20.

“Demand quality, not just in the product you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.” – Orsola de Castro

3. Milk Chocolate Minis
by Equal Exchange

You can’t go wrong with classic milk chocolate bites! Get 150 pieces for $32!

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Orsola de Castro

We hope you enjoy these fair trade candies! Have you found any other affordable fair trade Halloween candy that we should know about? Let us know!

 

Wishing you a happy, safe, and fair Halloween!  

3 Things We Teach Parents of Trafficked Children

3 Things We Teach Parents of Trafficked Children

You’re in a field.

Suddenly, a venomous green snake sinks his fangs into your ankle. You rush to the hospital and after an excruciating procedure, you are released. The next week, you walk across your lawn and see a winding, green snake in the grass.

You scream as you dash through the door. A wave of heat courses across your body and your heart pounds against your collarbone as you gasp for air.

You peek out the window and notice that the snake didn’t move. Squinting your eyes for a closer look, you realize it was a garden hose.

This is trauma.

The fear is real, but the hose isn’t dangerous. A trafficking survivor responds the same way when confronted with reminders of their horrific exploitation.

Their trauma doesn’t end when they escape. Their minds continue to process the world through the lens of their exploitation. They must be guided through their healing journey and parents play a crucial role in their recovery. Yet most of us as parents have little understanding of trafficking, much less the best way to help our exploited children.

That’s why we created a weekly support group for parents of trafficked children. In this group, parents not only glean strength from others who share similar experiences, but they learn how to rebuild after trafficking. There are 3 key points we share with parents of trafficked children.

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