Session I: The Case of Forced Labor

Spring 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014 to Friday, February 21, 2014

"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

For a more encompassing and updated view on this topic, see our Fall 2018 - Spring 2019 FLC Course on Human Trafficking, specifically Module 3: Complexities of Labor Trafficking.

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Course materials

Module Materials

Learning Objectives

Understand the scope and reality of forced labor in the agriculture, timber, and livestock industries in the case study of Brazil

Learn about successful strategies for intervention and prevention by civil society, business, and governments

Better understand our role as American citizens and consumers in eliminating the use of forced labor around the globe

Primary Resources

Nature of the Problem

a)    “Slavery 101,” (12:22 video). Poignant introduction to modern-day slavery by Free the Slaves. 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).

Case Study Brazil

a)   In “Trapped in Slavery” Robyn Fieser briefly describes the personal stories of several Brazilian workers who found themselves enslaved and the efforts that the Church and civil society partners CRS supports provide to help these individuals.  (Published May 24, 2011)

b)   Brazil Models Courage in Fighting Modern-Day Slavery - Names on “Dirty List” prompted CRS Coffeelands program to seek insight into slave-labor conditions on Brazilian plantations.  Kaitlyn Mortimer briefly introduces four questions CRS and partner Repórter Brasil sought to ask those coffee estates.  She acknowledges Brazil’s efforts in “refusing to ignore the problem” of modern day slavery.  Follow the links embedded from her comments to CRS Coffeelands blog and its series of eight posts (also linked together) regarding slavery in Brazil. (January 19, 2016)

c)  In Rooting Out Modern Slavery in Coffee Supply Chains, Kaitlyn Mortimer summarizes the conclusions found in the following resource, Farmworker Protections and Labor Conditions in Brazil’s Coffee Sector: Exploring Isolated Cases of Modern Slavery.  The latter 42-page report (2016) outlines the findings of more than two years of research by CRS and Repórter Brasil on cases of modern slavery in Brazil's coffee sector. The authors also advance a series of recommendations at the close of this report for policymakers, private-sector leaders, and consumers in order to more effectively contribute to the definitive eradication of slave labor.

d)  Just as the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were starting, author John Lindner remarked, in Brazil Confronts Modern-Day Slavery, “while the world’s spotlight is on Brazil, it’s fitting to applaud the country in its quest to eradicate modern slavery from its borders.” (July 28, 2016)

e) In this talk given at a TEDx event, Leonardo Sakamoto shares 21st century tools to combat a 21st century scourge that continues to grow.  Journalist, doctor in political science, and a professor of journalism at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo, Sakamoto advises the United Nations Fund of Contemporary Forms of Slavery. He is also a founder and President of Reporter Brasil, an NGO that identifies and publicizes human rights violations and slave labor. His talk uses the TED conference format but was independently organized by a local community.  (Video, 10:34, published on March 17, 2016)

f) “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.”

g) View photos of Contemporary Slavery in Brazil. (Source: Brazil Photos)

h) Explore The Global Slavery Index and specific findings on Brazil, including 2018 Country Data and 2018 Country Studies: Brazil.

i) CRS calls for action against Slave Labor. Watch Preserving Dignity in the Brazilian Amazon (English with subtitles, 5:21 minutes) or Preservando a dignidade na Amazônia (Portuguese, 5:31 minutes). (2015)


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.

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: See “How Many Slave Work for You" through the Slavery Footprint.

c)    Understand corporate social responsibility and supply chains.  Explore 

     “Know the Chain” – a resource to promote transparency

      California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act SB-657 

      Verite’s “Forced Labor Commodity Atlas”  

Secondary Resources

UK Guardian Global development podcast: modern-day slavery in focus” (link to 35:55 audio podcast and transcript) Annie Kelly interviews guests including: Beate Andrees, head of the program 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 first-hand testimony from a Chinese person who experienced 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. 

"The Global Slavery Index 2108” - read the Overview or the full 276-page report.  Since 2013, the Walk Free Foundation has provided a ranking of 167 countries around the world through their Global Slavery Index, 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?  See report pages 8 - 11 or for more details Click Here

Catholic Relief Services: Find out how you can set them free. “Turn on the Light. Help Stop Human Trafficking.

The Trafficking in Persons Report June 2018 produced annually by the U.S. Department of State, assesses how effectively countries around the world are combating human trafficking by placing them at different tiers based on their efforts. Recommended reading (based on report page numbers): “How to Read a Country Narrative” Page 62; “Country Narrative: Brazil” Pages 108 - 109.

If You Want to Know More


UN Definition of "Trafficking in Persons": Page 42 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the 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;”

For further context on the Convention and its protocol on trafficking see: United Nation's Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking

International Labour Organization Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, No. 29 (1930), ratified by 173 countries 16, including Brazil in 1957, the member States of the ILO define forced labor as: “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”

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. “

For context on the International Labour Organization see International Labor Organization's Forced Labor Program  (Note ILO campaign “End Slavery Now!” featuring actors and artists)

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)

For more on the U.S. international efforts and a wealth of resources see



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.
Brief video on Reporter Brazil and the Brazilian Pastoral Land Commission (2:41 video)
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.
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) 



Statement of Principles and Recommended Practices for Confronting Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery,” by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.  A 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 

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