California labor laws are being enforced in the city of San Francisco to protect California laborers who are particularly susceptible to wage theft. These workers are often entitled to compensation exceeding backed wages due to minimum wage laws, including severance pay violations, liquidated damages and waiting time penalties. If workers are able to submit a complaint within the statute of limitations timeframe, they can often recover significant lost wages. Community organizations Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center recently assisted in a labor case awarded in favor of laborers by the California Labor Commissioner.
California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. has awarded back pay in the amount of $138,386 to a caregiver who worked 16-hour days in San Francisco without adequate compensation. Francisca Vasquez, a Salvadorian war refugee, was hired in 1992 by two siblings to work as a caregiver and companion for their elderly parents. Vasquez was originally paid $400 per month, and later $500 per month as she took on housekeeping and round-the-clock care for the sibling’s ailing mother. Upon the death of the mother, Vasquez was discharged from her position.
The labor commissioner awarded her:
- $50,008 for wages
- $48,209 in liquidated damages
- $35,707 in interest
- $4,464 in penalties
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As part of our ongoing interview series with members of The Freedom Network we introduce Roxbury Youthworks Inc. (RYI), a community-based minority nonprofit in Boston. We spoke with Steven Procopio of RYI about their work on behalf of youth and families.
RYI has served youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems for over 30 years, using a therapeutic mentor-model to build close relationships with youth and families in poverty to help them find safety and success. When youth are engaged with their families, community and local resources good things happen.
The Gaining Independence for Tomorrow (GIFT) program has a long history (and outstanding results) supporting girls and young women that are at high risk or are known victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The 24/7 service connects a mentor working in a role as life coach, helping them make smart decisions around education, employment, housing and more. Most importantly they are aiding youth in their healing from exploitation and helping others reduce their risk factors. The close mentoring relationship is a healthy bond built on trust and empowerment, as well as strong partnerships with other service providers.
Steven has developed the BUILD Program at RYI– Being United in Leading our Destiny– a new entity serving boys and trans-identified youth in Boston and across Massachusetts. The BUILD program employs an intensive mentoring model for this under served population, and the momentum and positive outcomes are growing.
“70% of the boys that are victims of human trafficking have a history of sexual victimization and are struggling with complex trauma; trauma that can present in ways quite different than they do in girls.”
Steven presented strategies working with boys to members at the Freedom Network Conference in San Francisco in 2014, offering ideas on effective identification and mentorship. A few highlights:
- Behavioral Indicators in boys: Adverse behavior can be a sign of victimization.
- Dispel myths around boys and sex trafficking: Both straight and gay boys are victims of trafficking.
- Cultural Competency: Gender matters when engaging youth.
- Risk factors in boys: Homelessness, runaway-behavior, withdrawn affect and self-mutilation are common.
“At Roxbury Youthworks our mission was strengthened by policy changes from the Department of Justice and Obama Administration”
We believe strong partnerships come with the sharing of information, and this new series of interviews on the Freedom Network blog with members will help us build those bonds and do better work together. If your organization committed to combatting human trafficking from a human rights perspective The Freedom Network could be a valuable tool for growth. We invite you to learn more about membership and explore joining our community.
Lynnette Parker, Associate Clinical Professor at the Katherine and George Alexander Community Law Center was recognized last year by the FBI for her incredible and unwavering work with victims of human trafficking.
Parker has been working in the Bay Area and has advocated for human trafficking victims for nearly 15 years. Parker was honored for her advocacy by the FBI with the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award from the San Francisco Field Office at a 2014 awards ceremony.
Parker’s outstanding achievements include the following:
- In 2005, she helped form the multi-agency South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking, which meets monthly and shares information and resources to meet the housing, legal, and support needs of victims.
- She and other coalition members have spoken before hundreds of social-services, legal, and other groups to educate them on the problems, signs, and resources for trafficking victims.
- She’s referred numerous cases to law enforcement, helping the San Francisco FBI office launch at least two major trafficking-ring investigations.
- She and her team have helped more than 80 families get “T-Visas” that enable them to stay in the U.S. legally while trafficking cases are prosecuted.
- She has helped launch numerous classes at Santa Clara University dealing with human trafficking.
Freedom Network is proud to work with the Alexander Law Center at Santa Clara University and Lynnette Parker in her efforts to eradicate human trafficking.
The Freedom Network USA is working to strengthen the relationships between member organizations. We believe strong bonds encourage the sharing of information, and this new series of interviews on the Freedom Network blog with members will help us build those bonds and do better work together.
We’re kicking-off the interview series with a chat with Maja Hasic at Tapestri in Atlanta. Tapestri has a 14-year history of service to immigrant and refugee families impacted by domestic violence and exploitation. Taprstri has supported victims throughout Atlanta and The South with expertise in case management, housing assistance, counseling and legal advocacy. Maja is proud of the partnerships Tapestri has built with service providers in Atlanta and across the region.
Tapestri supports organizations in eight Southern states with training and technical assistance, offering education on victim intake interviews, counseling and mental health support, immigration rules and more.
“Tapestri knows we’re stronger together. We share our knowledge with organizations supporting victims, giving them the tools to do great work.”
Maja is a big fan of the Freedom Network community, having tapped into the expertise of the network numerous times for information on obtaining visas and most recently, civil litigation of traffickers.
Freedom Network Member Martina Vandenberg at The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center connected Tapestri with Audra Dial, managing partner of the Atlanta office of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton for the purpose of promoting justice through civil litigation. This partnership led to the first civil litigation judgment against traffickers in the state of Georgia. A $365,000 award was secured for a victim forced into domestic service for nearly two years; the woman thought she had taken a two-week job in Georgia catering the wedding of the Ellenwood couple’s son.. Learn more about Tapestri and their services in Atlanta and throughout the South on their website.
Is your organization committed to combatting human trafficking from a human rights perspective? The Freedom Network is growing and we invite you to learn more about membership and explore joining our community!
The Give Way to Freedom Organization fights against human trafficking by providing various resources to the local and global community. Based in Vermont, the organization has partnered with the University of Vermont College of Medicine Public Health Project, as well as the Vermont task force. Other domestic projects include providing a toolkit and training materials to the Massachusetts General Hospital for health care professionals and coordinating a rapid response support system.
The organization is also associated with various international projects in the fight against human trafficking. Give Way to Freedom is working on a social action project for women’s crisis centers in Mae Sot, Thailand and is also working with partner program Children On the Edge. The organization also works with Freedom House in Kisumu, Kenya and the Helen Bamber Foundation in London.
Give Way to Freedom director Edith Klimoski was recently recognized by the state of Vermont and awarded for her work on behalf of survivors of human trafficking. It is a great achievement to be recognized by the state for the powerful work both she and the organization are doing, and Freedom Network is proud to support this influential agency.
Freedom Network USA and associated member groups including the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA) is recognizing National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April 2015 in the fight against human trafficking. National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. During the month of April and throughout the year, communities are encouraged to share child abuse and neglect prevention awareness strategies and activities and promote prevention across the country. This year of 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Freedom Network USA and member organizations are committed to putting an end to child abuse and human trafficking.
In 2014, the United States was witness to a surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children entering through he southern border; it is estimated that one third of the youth attempting the crossing ultimately ended up in a trafficking situation.
The Freedom Network is pleased to announce another panel for the 13th annual Freedom Network Conference being held on April 21-22nd in Washington D.C. The Unaccompanied Alien Children Workshop will take place on Wednesday, April 22 from 3:00-4:00 P.M. and will discuss experienced, barriers and service needs of unaccompanied alien children who are experiencing trafficking.
This panel will discuss the experiences of these children who do enter the U.S. and are then trafficked for labor and sex. The outcome of this panel is to better enable participants to identify conflicting push and pull factors that lead to the human trafficking, talk about opportunities for service for victims, and how to identify unaccompanied minor victims of trafficking and connect them with existing appropriate support services.
The Freedom Network USA is pleased to announce the following presenters for the Unaccompanied Alien Children Workshop:
Madeline Hannan is the Project Director of ChildRight: New York with the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA). She is responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of a statewide response to child trafficking through partnerships with select counties, delivering training and technical assistance, and creating a screening tool and strategic statewide action plan. Ms. Hannan has worked directly with trafficking survivors and vulnerable youth in New York City. As a fellow at the University at Albany, she provided policy analysis on child welfare issues at the state level for the New York State Council on Children and Families. Ms. Hannan was a member of the Executive Management Team as well as the National Training and Technical Assistance Program at Polaris Project in Washington, DC. She earned her M.S.W. from McGill University. During her graduate studies she designed and completed an analytical study of child protection training materials on behalf of the United Nations’ Department of Peacekeeping Operations while concurrently writing a master’s thesis on New York State’s Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act.
Gonzalo Martinez de Vedia
Gonzalo Martinez de Vedia is a Human Trafficking Specialist with the Worker Justice Center of New York, where he investigates labor and sex trafficking through outreach to high-risk workplaces, provides comprehensive case management services for trafficking survivors, and trains law enforcement on trafficking identification and prevention within immigrant communities. As coordinator for the North Country Human Trafficking Taskforce and member of all upstate regional taskforces, Mr. Martinez de Vedia facilitates inter-agency responses to trafficking cases statewide. In 2014, he was appointed to a three-year term on the Ulster County Human Rights Commission. Previously, Mr. Martinez de Vedia served the outreach and advocacy missions of the Cornell Farmworker Program, the Rural and Migrant Ministry, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. He holds a BA cum laude from Cornell University, where he was Founding President of the Immigrant Farmworker Initiative.
Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman is a true survivor. He grew up in Honduras where he was exposed to extreme violence at the hands of his father. When he was 14 1/2, he was kidnapped and brought to America where he was trafficked and sold into child sex trafficking in San Diego, CA. When he was finally rescued from his abductors, he was further traumatized for several years, in a system that was designed to “help” him. Mr. Piraino-Guzman used his interpersonal skills and hope for a better future as a way to survive and persevere. Today he travels the country advocating for youth and teaching caregivers and service providers how to create a relationship of trust and open communication with children who have been abused and traumatized. Recently, Mr. Piraino-Guzman became San Diego Counties’ youngest foster parent. He is a specialist with children who have suffered severe abuse, and therefore, was asked to take an emergency placement; a 14 year old developmentally-delayed child. Mr. Piraino-Guzman is currently the Program Coordinator for the Pathways Initiative for
Freedom Network USA is proud to support Farmworkers Awareness Week and all member organizations that work tirelessly to defend the rights of laborers.
Courtesy of Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF)
Farmworkers feed the world- 85% of our fruits and vegetables are handpicked. There are an estimated 2-3 million men, women, and children work in the fields in the United States. Farms are in every state, including yours, yet farmworkers remain largely invisible and continue to live and work in horrific conditions. We demand dignity for farmworkers.
Farm work is the third most dangerous job in the United States. The people who plant and harvest our fruits and vegetables suffer from the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any other workers in the nation and have higher incidences of heat stress, dermatitis, urinary tract infections, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis than other wage-earners.
Farmworkers are treated differently under the law. Overtime, unemployment insurance, and even protection when joining a union are not guaranteed under federal law. Farmworkers were excluded from almost all major federal laws passed in the 1930s. The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1978 to mandate minimum wage for farmworkers on large farms only and it still has not made provisions for overtime. We work for just living and working conditions for farmworkers and an end to unfair treatment under the law.
For more information about these issues, visit the SAF website.
Here are 5 things you can do today to support farmworkers rights and help end human trafficking.
Freedom Network will present on labor trafficking and other related issues at this year’s annual conference held April 21-22 in Washington D.C.
Freedom Network member organization CAST LA has shared five ways to get involved in the fight against human trafficking. These tips can be applied to CAST LA or any local FN member organization working on the front lines of ending human trafficking. To find a local FN member organization to support, click here.
FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY TO STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING:
CAST offers our services for free. So any amount you donate will help survivors of modern-day slavery rebuild their lives.
Whether you are a professional with expertise in working with trafficking victims, or you just want to be part of the solution, CAST wants to get you involved!
Grow the movement to end modern-day slavery! CAST can help you use your expertise to organize fund raising events, and start your own community or university anti-trafficking group.
4. Start a Chain Store Reaction
As a consumer, you have the power to support fair trade products. Send an email to your favorite brands demanding a guarantee that their products are slave free.
5. Report a Crime
If you suspect a case of human trafficking, don’t put yourself and others in danger by intervening on the spot. Please report the incident to professionals.
Image Credit: [Thomas Leuthard]