"Manufacturing Freedom"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
The Historical Roots of Human Trafficking
Publication Type
Book Chapter

One of the sites of slavery and trafficking worldwide is that of the factory. Abuses may occur where manufacturing activities are informal, are conducted by workers made vulnerable by social exclusion or minority status, or are dependent on immigrant labor (whether through guest worker programs or informal means). In the United States, slavery in factories has a long history, but has often been overlooked or classified through other lenses. Prosecutions in factory settings have been rare but have had major impacts not just on antislavery enforcement but also on labor law and practice. The practice of off-shoring has had such a dramatic effect on US manufacturing that the problem of abuse in US manufacturing is perhaps now more one of global supply chains than slavery in domestic factories, requiring an extraterritorial approach. Techniques that have been proven to be effective in factory settings – such as complaint mechanisms, unionization, labor standards and enforcement, and the ability of workers to change employers – could be models for interventions in other less formal workplaces. Worker-led social responsibility, developed in migrant agriculture, is now starting to be tested in garment factories as well.

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