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Yes, You Have Slaves Working for You

Yes, You Have Slaves Working for You

How many slaves have you employed today? No matter what you might think, itís unlikely the answer is zero. While many of us might do our best to buy local, fair trade items, it’s simply not enough to ensure a truly free economy.

Enter the website slaveryfootprint.org. They ask a very simple, but incredibly loaded question: how many slaves work for you? Like many, I was apprehensive about taking this test because the results would put me in touch with a reality Iíd rather not think about. Even living in a fairly modest home in sub-Saharan Africa, I wondered, how many slaves have played a part in my everyday life?

As you take this interactive quiz, you go through the basics. Where do you live? Whatís your age? Are you male or female and do you have any children? As you do so, facts about slavery greet you in the sidebar. As I plugged in my general diet, food items I never considered might be touched by slavery came to light: ďBonded labor is used for much of Southeast Asia’s shrimping industry, which supplies more shrimp to the U.S. than any other country. Laborers work up to 20-hour days to peel 40 pounds of shrimp. Those who attempt to escape are under constant threat of violence or sexual assault.Ē

I typed in the gadgets I use, the clothes in my closet and the rooms in my house. In the end, it turned out that 34 slaves worked for me. To come up with the number, the website behind it, Made in a Free World, used five reports on slavery and labor created by the Department of State, Labor, Transparency International and Freedom House. Statistics from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were also used.

The algorithm they employed is displayed on the website. While it is not based on specific brands or designers, and one could argue that the use of such fair trade might mitigate slavery, itís also important to note how often we are duped by such claims. Trader Joeís, often heralded by folks as a humane and ethical commercial chain, has been†accused of selling tomatoes picked by slave labor. Whole Foods has also been criticized for carrying chocolate tied to slave labor in their stores.

It is nearly impossible to compile an average collection of human goods that are not somehow involved in the slave trade. So what does that mean for us? Does that mean that we simply give up? Or should we begin demanding that companies employ transparent methods regarding how they acquire their goods?

Made in a Free World offers business tools for company owners to help improve the quality of the goods they currently offer. This free assessment includes looking at vendor agreements, the code of conduct, engagement pathways and a review of general policy. Businesses are also welcome to sign up for a free launch pack, with an invitation to join MIAFW if their products become slavery free. They also offer a smartphone app which allows consumers to check if products are slavery-free. And if they are not, it links them up with a direct line to the company to demand they source free trade items.

It is said there are more slaves working today than during the 1800s. Many of lifeís everyday slaves simply slip below our radar. They are in Ghana, harvesting chocolate for consumers around the globe. They are in mica factories in India, generating the sparkles that so many of us wear in our makeup. And this is not to say that we are all slavers, or somehow guilty of enslaving millions.

What it is saying is that now that you know, itís time to ensure that your every day choices, your dollar-vote, sends a message. To invest in companies that refuse to use slave labor, and pressure those who do, to stop. It is something every single citizen can take part in, without disrupting most of their daily life. So what are you waiting for? Take the test. How many slaves worked for you today?

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117 comments

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4:27PM PDT on Aug 24, 2014

Buy from American Slaves.

6:08AM PDT on May 21, 2014

But we do Mary.

9:14AM PDT on May 16, 2014

Consummers should not have to worry about how what they buy is made. That just removes the responsibility from the busness to the market.The business should know how their supply chain operates and when slavery is found, report it to the government of the country. Ultimately, the governing body of a country, since they control the money supply, must be held responsible for the welfare of it's own people.People must be supplied with a means of exchange that their own country uses, or they will be exploited.And if the government is corrupt then we need a UN agency who watchdogs this and bites damn hard any who misuse their power over their own people.You can't have a free market any where if the people don't get a share of the money. Nothing at all hard to understand here, just those who will argue to support the status quo.

11:20AM PDT on May 15, 2014

tell the customers that people who make the product don't have the same purchasing power

10:40AM PDT on May 15, 2014

thanks

1:22PM PDT on May 14, 2014

noted

10:35AM PDT on May 14, 2014

awful

9:48AM PDT on May 14, 2014

Could we include pimps and traffickers in our own backyard please?

8:29AM PDT on May 14, 2014

thanks.

7:09AM PDT on May 14, 2014

No anteater should ever have slaves working for him.

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