cover image Unbroken Chains: The Hidden Role of Human Trafficking in the American Economy

Unbroken Chains: The Hidden Role of Human Trafficking in the American Economy

Melissa Hope Ditmore. Beacon, $27.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0677-1

This searing exposé reveals the dark underbelly of the U.S. economy. Among other damning evidence of human trafficking and labor exploitation, sociologist Ditmore (Sex Work Matters) notes that from 1988 through 1995, 72 Thai garment workers were held captive and in debt bondage in a factory in El Monte, Calif., and that 3,750 workers were identified as possible trafficking victims during the Hurricane Katrina cleanup in 2005. The latter’s exploitation was abetted, according to Ditmore, by the government’s relaxing of immigration restrictions and wage and safety standards to draw foreign workers. Usually conflated with prostitution, the author notes, human trafficking is typically prosecuted in the sex trades and overlooked in other businesses where it occurs, including factories, slaughterhouses, and industrial farms. Victims are most in need of transitional housing and job training and placement, Ditmore argues, rather than criminal prosecution or deportment, the threats of which help sustain the trafficking industry. Ditmore’s solutions include reaching out to workers in suspected trafficking situations, buying from companies that support the Fair Foods Standards Council, boycotting products made with prison labor, and donating to human rights organizations that offer direct services to workers. Knowledgable, empathetic, and impassioned, Ditmore is an expert tour guide through this harrowing landscape. Readers will be moved to take action. (May)