Fresno Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula has introduced a new bill that would establish a labor trafficking unit within Cal/OSHA to investigate and prosecute people who force or manipulate vulnerable people into jobs with little or no pay, often under unsafe working conditions.
The bill is co-sponsored by the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative at Loyola Law School.
“We must establish a Labor Trafficking Unit to help stop this cruel and inhumane treatment of workers who only want to make a living and provide for their families,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “For the first time, California would have a unit specifically assigned to investigate and prosecute unscrupulous perpetrators.”
The bill authors said that, while the state has primarily focused its efforts and attention to sex trafficking over the years, there has been no solid effort focused on labor trafficking.
If the bill passes, the unit would reside under the California Department of Industrial Relations as a subdivision of Cal/OSHA and would investigate and prosecute complaints alleging labor trafficking.
California first enacted anti-trafficking laws 15 years ago, yet no state agency currently has a mandate to look for labor trafficking.
“Despite some progress, California continues to have the highest number of victims of human trafficking in the U.S. over the last two decades,” said Joseph Villela, policy director at Loyola Law School’s Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines human trafficking as a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services or commercial sex.
According to the Department of Industrial Relations, human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise and is an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: OC REGISTER