Almost 150 years after the thirteenth amendment legally abolished slavery, we’re still fighting for freedom.

In my previous article, modern day slavery was explored through the complex, multi-layered system of human exploitation that permeates our everyday lives. Known as our slavery footprint, what we buy connects us to people across the world as well as right here at home.

Pervasive and seemingly intangible as today’s slavery is, the Bay Area is trailblazing the path towards the end of the many kinds of oppression ranging from the maltreatment of coffee farmers in rural Ecuador to the more notorious sex trafficking on International Blvd.

Based in San Francisco but with projects all over the world, Not for Sale recently launched a twelve-week program that provides at-risk youth and trafficked survivors in the Bay Area with job training and employment opportunities in local tech, hospitality, and retail businesses that ethically source their products. NFS partnered with organizations such as MISSSEY, a non-profit in Oakland that provides rehabilitative services to sexually exploited youth.

Ethan Batstone, director of engagement at Not For Sale, describes the necessary independence trafficked victims must develop to become stable and successful, “If you don’t have access to pay, you can’t determine your own future. You go back to trafficking because there’s some semblance of safety and a manipulation of that power dynamic.”

Having begun in September, Not for Sale’s Bay Area program is still underway, but so far none of the participants have fallen back into trafficking.

-Prevent Human Trafficking- by ro_chelle (1)

Recognized as a federal crime in 2000, the US passed its first anti-trafficking law and has since then been reauthorized multiple times. California is the first state to adopt an anti-slavery policy that extends past our national borders through the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, effected in 2012 which obliges big-box retailers doing business in California to publicly display their efforts in eradicating slavery from their supply chains.

What does it mean, exactly, for a supply chain to be afflicted with slavery? First off, a supply chain is a company’s network of production and distribution, and it traces way back to how raw materials were originally extracted. Those raw materials then go through a series of steps to end up as a finished product.

Until now, there hasn’t been any technology that allowed businesses to understand their risk of forced labor in specific areas of their supply chain. Made in a Free World, a nonprofit that originated in Oakland and created the Slavery Footprint website, is developing a software for companies that will provide a comprehensive report of where in their supply chain slavery is most likely to occur based on the company’s spend data. Suggestions on how to absolve certain points in a supply chain will also be offered, such as establishing codes of conduct or labor policies.

“It’s not just a big-box issue,” Kyle Buetzow, director of campaigns at Made in a Free World emphasizes. “Size is by no means a guarantee of a clean supply chain.”

On December 1st, MIAFW will be launching a holiday marketing campaign for nine companies, some of which are local, that are using the software and status of their progress. Names of these companies are withheld until the release date.

Another globally recognized organization which also happens to be based in Oakland, Fair Trade USA partners with over 900 different companies in the US to carry products that are made in socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable ways. These products comply with international production standards such as no child labor, fair wages, and safe working conditions.

“There is power in their individual sourcing practices, and there is power in the aggregate,” says Jenna Larson, senior manager of communications at Fair Trade USA regarding the impact these production standards have had on company supply chains. “Choosing Fair Trade is an easy way to vote with your dollar for the kind of world you want to live in.”

In 2014 alone, over 450 new certified Fair Trade products were promoted throughout the marketplace, totaling more than 12,000 items available across North America. A five-step campaign is currently in progress to declare Oakland a Fair Trade Town, which San Francisco and Berkeley are already established as. A map of retailers offering fair trade products within the town is provided on Oakland’s campaign site.

Brands like Patagonia and West Elm launched their first Fair Trade lines this past fall. Raw ingredients that Oakland’s Numi Tea purchases are also 80% Fair Trade certified.

-Thx Oakland Grafitti- by MajorMalfunction

As the human population multiplies specifically in developing and underdeveloped countries, confronting an exponential growth in global slavery is dire. In America, the Supreme Court ruling that domestic workers don’t have the same unionizing rights as other workers perpetuates systemic exploitation, while gangs turn away from drug/weapon dealing and towards sex trafficking as a more viable and less detectable means of making money.

Though businesses, organizations, and governments are networking to develop value-based commerce, ultimately humanitarian progress in our global and local economy starts with the consumer. The next and last installment of this series will focus on national and local trends in modern slavery rhetoric and policy reform, as well as how consumer demand drives the way the world does business.

About The Author

Simone writes about the currents circulating beneath mainstream, with a focus on non-profit developments and at-risk youth enrichment. Outside of freelancing for Oakland Local, she works in the foster care system of Contra Costa County and nerds out on literary magazines. Simone also spearheads the Community Voices section of OL. Contact her at

One Response

  1. Amanda

    Food Empowerment Project in Cotati should be listed here too. They are doing excellent work educating the public and working to eradicate various forms of slavery. They had a great app that helps consumers locate slavery-free chocolate.


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