13:17 PM

Rebecca Pfeffer Contributes to Northeastern University Study, Sheds Light on Labor Trafficking

Rebecca Pfeffer, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Houston-Downtown, served as researcher and coauthor of "Understanding the Organization, Operation, and Victimization Process of Labor Trafficking in the United States," a collaborative study recently published by Urban Institute and Northeastern University. The publication,the first of its kind, comprehensively analyzes the state of labor trafficking in the United States.

In recent years, organizations like the United Nations, UNICEF, and Polaris have increased the world's awareness of the severity and weight of human trafficking and present-day slavery. However, the American media has focused its spotlight almost entirely on sex trafficking. Many citizens are unaware of the impact and prevalence of labor trafficking, defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery."

The associated web feature, "Hidden in Plain Sight" tells the story of Joseph, a fictional composite character whose experiences are representative of the 26 actual trafficking victims who were interviewed by the research team. The presentation is a chronology of the typical recruitment, forced labor, attempted escape, and efforts toward justice experienced by these victims.

The report brings to light legal loopholes and enforcement challenges that enable the continuation of labor trafficking in major U.S. industries, including agriculture, domestic labor, hospitality, food service and construction. The study presents case file data and interviews which reveal the pervasive nature of trafficking; it occurs out in the open every day. Consequently, the researches propose detailed plans to rigidify policy and to create public awareness, and as a result, identification and reporting of trafficking.