Spring 2014 Session I: The Case of Forced Labor

okeefe_curran_ensalaco_600x387_10042013It is estimated that up to 27 million people are currently enslaved workers (Source: www.freetheslaves.net). This session will introduce students to the scope and realities of forced labor today, focusing on the situation in Brazil. Readings, video, and live discussion will highlight the way that CRS works with local partners in Brazil to reduce forced labor in the agriculture, timber, and livestock industries. Resources will focus on successful strategies employed by partner organizations as they work to raise awareness, gather data on supply chains, and train educators and other community members on these problems. What is being done to intervene now at the local and transnational levels? And what can be done to prevent human slavery in the future? Students will also learn about CRS’ Guiding Principles and the global Church’s attention to issues of slavery and human trafficking.


The purpose of this webcast  is to learn more about how an organization like CRS is working to eradicate slave labor – from working to reduce the vulnerabilities that lead to enslavement, such as landlessness and joblessnes, to the legislative work that needs to happen to advocate for supply chains free of slave labor, at the regional, national, and international levels. What is being done to respond and what can WE do in particular?   Hear from Dr. Mary Laver (CRS Program Advisor), Dr. Vince Miller (University of Dayton), and Jill Marie Gershutz Bell (Senior Legislative Specialist, CRS).

CRS formed a new partnership with the University of Dayton’s Human Rights Center to enhance our effort to combat slavery through applied research.  Pictured above are Bill O’Keefe ( Vice President for Government Relations & Advocacy, CRS) and Dr. Daniel J. Curran (President, University of Dayton)  Click here to learn more about this effort.

“The human person must never be sold and bought as merchandise. Whoever uses and exploits the person, even indirectly, makes himself an accomplice of this abuse.” – Pope Francis, Address to Ambassadors on the Subject of Human Trafficking, Vatican City, December 13, 2013

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the scope and reality of forced labor in the agriculture, timber, and livestock industries in the case study of Brazil
  2. Learn about successful strategies for intervention and prevention by civil society, business, and governments
  3. Better understand our role as American citizens and consumers in eliminating the use of forced labor around the globe

Section I – Primary Resources (recommended for use by all participants)

1)     Nature of the Problem

a)     “Slavery 101,” (12:22 video). Poignant introduction to modern-day slavery by Free the Slaves (www.freetheslaves.net). Includes cases from around the world and strategies for eradicating slavery.

b)     “Modern-day Slavery: An Explainer,” by Annie Kelly, The Guardian (UK), (webpage with key definitions; see “for more information” section below for international legal frameworks and definitions).

2)     Case Study Brazil

a)     “How You Can Help Free Slaves in Brazil,” interview by CRS’ Alsy Acevedo with Leonardo Sakamoto, founder of Reporter Brazil. Sakamoto discusses contemporary slavery in Brazil and the  initiatives of his organization, which is in partnership with CRS on, among other projects, the education campaign “Slavery – no way!” In addition to education campaigns and reporting, Reporter Brazil conducts research to trace labor through supply chains to national and international markets so that companies can be pressed to stop using slave labor. The article discusses government and NGO efforts to eradicate slavery in Brazil, such as the Brazilian Pact to Eradicate Slave Labor, which Reporter Brazil has been instrumental in promoting. The landmark Pact is an agreement that companies can sign to commit to eradicating the use of slave labor in production.

b)     “Slavery: Video Interview with Xavier Plassat, Coordinator of the Brazilian Pastoral Land Commission Campaign Against Slave Labor,” (24:16 video, Salt and Light Productions). Brother Passat talks about the conditions of contemporary slavery in the Brazilian Amazon—including geographic isolation, indebtedness, and lack of support systems—and the root causes of slavery, such as landlessness, joblessness, and lack of access to education and healthcare. Plassat also addresses our connection to these problems as consumers in the global economy. Video ends with a reading of Isaiah 61:1-2 proclaiming “liberty to the captives.”

3)     Principles

a)     USCCB Committee on Migration Resource, “On Human Trafficking,. Two-page brief discusses Catholic social teaching regarding trafficking, gives call to action, and recommends responses in US context — such as promotion of immigration reform to reduce vulnerability of migrant populations.

4)     What Is Being Done and What You Can Do

a)    “Slavery and Commodity Chains: Fighting the Globalization of Indifference,”  by Vincent J. Miller, America, blogpost January 2, 2014.  Dr. Vince Miller is Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton and was a participant in a 2013 trip to Brazil to work with CRS and its partners on the issue of slave labor. Written with the GSN in mind, this essay pushes students to notice how we have more knowledge of and desire for our things than we do knowledge of how these things are produced. The essay is an excellent introduction to global supply chains and slave labor and invites reflection on our moral responsibilities as consumers.

b) Understand how we are involved through supply chains: “Slavery Footprint” http://slaveryfootprint.org/

c)    Understand corporate social responsibility and supply chains: “Know the Chain” – a resource to promote transparency  and dialogue related to California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act SB-657 https://www.knowthechain.org/the-issue/  and Verite’s “Forced Labor Commodity Atlas” http://www.verite.org/Commodities

Section II –  Key Secondary Resources

  • “Modern Slavery, Ancient Exploitation,” by Charles M. A. Clark, Professor of Economics, St. John’s University. Clark’s essay gives an introduction to slavery and reasons for its persistence in our global economy. He draws on Church and human rights language to discuss the need for action. Clark closes his essay with strategies for eradication of slave labor in Brazil, following his recent trip as part of a CRS delegation to study slave labor in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • “UK Guardian Global development podcast: modern-day slavery in focus (35:55 audio podcast) Annie Kelly interviews guests including: Beate Andrees, head of the programme to combat forced labour at the ILO; Romana Cacchioli, of Anti-Slavery International; Andrew Wallis, chief executive of Unseen; Leonardo Sakamoto, who covers slavery for Reporter Brazil, and a first-hand testimony from a Chinese person who has experience trafficking. The podcast, a sophisticated overarching introduction to this theme, features candid reflections by experts and brief first-hand accounts from contemporary slaves. Discussion focuses on the scale and causes of contemporary slavery, nuancing definitions of terminology, and conventions and other tools for international enforcement of anti-slavery efforts.
  • Global Slavery Index, website and full 2013 “Global Slavery Index Report”. From the Walk Free Foundation, the 2013 inaugural Global Slavery Index provides a ranking of 162 countries around the world, based on a combined measure of three factors: estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population, a measure of child marriage, and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country. Interested in the methodology of the Global Slavery Index? Read this Guardian story.

Section III – If you want to learn more


  • Page 42 of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime’s Palermo Protocol, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime  .  Page 42 of the Convention and Protocols thereto gives the following definition of trafficking: “’Trafficking in persons’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;”
  • And the International Labour Organization’s Convention Concerning the Abolition of Forced Labor 1957 (Article 1) states: “Each Member of the International Labour Organisation which ratifies this Convention undertakes to suppress and not to make use of any form of forced or compulsory labour– (a) as a means of political coercion or education or as a punishment for holding or expressing political views or views ideologically opposed to the established political, social or economic system; (b) as a method of mobilising and using labour for purposes of economic development; (c) as a means of labour discipline; (d) as a punishment for having participated in strikes; (e) as a means of racial, social, national or religious discrimination.”
  • US Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Traffickking in Persons (JTIP)  states ““Trafficking in persons” and “human trafficking” have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386), as amended, and the Palermo Protocol describe this compelled service using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor. Human trafficking can include but does not require movement. People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked. At the heart of this phenomenon is the traffickers’ goal of exploiting and enslaving their victims and the myriad coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so.”  (Link includes definitions of sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, and unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers)


“Brazilian Pact to Eradicate Slave Labor” The first initiative of its kind, the Pact gathers companies, commercial associations, and social organizations to eradicate slave labor in supply chains. Reporter Brazil (discussed above) played a key role in developing the Pact. The Pact is useful as a case study on concrete ways to engage corporations in anti-slavery efforts. Pair this link with the interview with Leonardo Sakamoto above entitled “How You Can Help Free Slaves in Brazil.”

Brief video on Reporter Brazil and the Brazilian Pastoral Land Commission at http://www.freetheslaves.net/page.aspx?pid=453 (2:41 video) If the video does not show up embedded in the page of your browser, go here directly for the video: http://vimeo.com/38874802 See also CPT website (in Portuguese)  http://www.cptnacional.org.br/ and Reporter Brazil website (in English) http://reporterbrasil.org.br/

“Fighting Forced Labor: The example of Brazil,” by Patricía Trindade Maranhão Costa, a publication of the International Labor Office Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, 2009, 122 pages  Excellent lengthier report on the context and responses to forced labor in Brazil.

“Breaking the Cycle of Slavery in Brazil,”Print interview by CRS’ Alsy Acevedo with Brother Xavier Plassat, coordinator of the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra, or CPT) in Brazil.  Br. Plassat discusses contemporary slavery in Brazil and the work of the CPT in tracking and investigating slavery as well as rescuing enslaved workers. Br. Passat discusses how the CPT tries to prevent slavery by efforts to lessen root causes such as landlessness and joblessness. Finally, the interview points to the role of the world’s privileged in ending slavery through attention to consumer and political choices.

Strengthening Community-Based Solutions Through Shareholder Activism: Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT): Community-Based Action to Eradicate Slavery, in ICCR  Social Sustainability Resource Guide – Building Sustainable Communities Through Multi-party Collaboration  (p. 63-65).

“Catholic Relief Services Applauds Passing of Amendment to End Slave Labor in Brazil,” by Alsy Acevedo, CRS Newswire Article describes constitutional amendment to end slave labor.


 “Brazilian Pact to Eradicate Slave Labor”

“Statement of Principles and Recommended Practices for Confronting Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery,” by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility Comprehensive review of principles and best practices for anti-trafficking corporate engagement.

UN Guiding Principles on Business and HR- These principles are not exclusive to trafficking/forced labor but are linked to subsequent work on forced labor in supply chains.

SHIFT utilizes the UN Guiding principles and works with business, governments and NGOS to develop a process on how to incorporate the principles into supply chain efforts

©2014 Catholic Relief Services University Program