Your Business: The seamy underbelly of business

Rabbi Levi Lauer, executive director and founder of ATZUM, published on the eve of Yom Kippur in The Jerusalem Post a moving supplication for an end to human trafficking.

Money Shekels bills 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Money Shekels bills 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Levi Lauer, executive director and founder of ATZUM, published on the eve of Yom Kippur in The Jerusalem Post a moving supplication for an end to human trafficking. Lauer can more intelligently talk about the human toll. I decided to inquire, how big is this perverse business? Human trafficking is a global enterprise. Entrepreneurs employ all the business principles for success. The mission is to provide the best products (human beings) to fill the demands of customers “to make them do whatever I want” for little or no pay in servitude against the will of the workers, while entrepreneurs make significant profits usually in cash.
The inventory, adults and children, are kidnapped or purchased from brokers. Their work ranges from miners underground to housekeepers and nannies. Boys and girls are prostitutes, child brides, or beggars; others are in debt bondage.
Many are forced warriors fighting in conflicts for warlords.
They are sold to factory managers making clothes sold in the world’s most expensive stores. Involuntary organ removal for sale is organized, marketed, or at the least sanctioned by governments.
Human trafficking in the Western Hemisphere began in the 1600s. A small group of African blacks were kidnapped by the Spanish and forcefully baptized. Dutch seized them in battle, and forced them into indentured servitude in American colonies. The rapidly expanding agricultural economy throughout the Americas demanded a greater supply of workers ending the policy of free men leaving the plantations. The system evolved into slavery and sexual exploitation legitimized and institutionalized by religious leaders and lawmakers.
Eight percent of American families eventually owned four million slaves bought and sold in public markets. Arab kidnappers sold Africans to Christian European brokers who contracted ship owners to transport them, and paid government officials import fees. Slaves numbered 12 million including the sugar colonies in the Caribbean to Brazil.
Attitudes to human trafficking even in enlightened nations are slow to change. The US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act was passed, but not until 2000. 83% of the US Justice Department cases are sex trafficking. Mexican, East European and Asian crime organizations are active global business networks. After drug smuggling, their next largest source of income is human trafficking in sexual slavery (46%), domestic servitude (27%), agriculture (10%), and 17% in factories or other industries. Some groups estimate there may be as many as 27 million people trafficked throughout the world today. $39 billion per year is generated in sales according to The UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
It is such a fast growing industry that experts expect it to surpass drugs and arms trafficking in the next decade.
They advertise their wares like any other business on all social and print media.
The UN Strategic Plan for 2012-2014 for combating human trafficking woefully omits recommendations addressing the capture, prosecution and imprisonment of traffickers and their coconspirators; the confiscation of profits and assets is missing. There is no discussion of sanctions against passthrough countries or destinations sites. The plan is inane moral fetor without serious recommendations to “follow the money” that finds its way into international banks already laundering drug profits from cartels.
International efforts to end human trafficking are insouciant characterized by the plan as suffering “overlap and duplication of efforts, lack of coordination, lack of consolidation of knowledge and inconsistent approaches impeding... combating human trafficking.”
Criminal prosecution and convictions are less than one for every 800 people trafficked.
Every country is left to its own initiatives for barriers to human trafficking. It’s usually grass roots organizations that advocate for change convincing lawmakers to pass legislation and for enforcement of the laws. Israel was publicly shamed by a US task force report on human trafficking.
Israel’s homegrown action task force, ATZUM, keeps pushing for actions with Israel marked as a major destination point and transit center for thousands of prostitutes of all ages trafficked from Russia and East European countries.
George Mason University professor Louise Shelley reported in a 2011 paper that what works for licit businesses works for human traffickers. Entry costs are low; goods (the victims) are easily and cheaply transported around the world,and product is readily available from within their own ethnic communities. Her research confirms, “profits are rarely confiscated, therefore this crime pays.”
Shelley offers some examples how big the sales are: two girls sold $400,000 in services in 18 months; one call ring generates $7 million annually with girls from post-Soviet states; and “Sister Ping had a $40m. business moving Chinese.”
A human traffickers price list with sources is available at
Some household name businesses are taking action. reports some are signing on to The Athens Ethical Principles committing to “stamp out the use of trafficked labor by companies.”
Others are attaching “trafficking free” labels to their clothing, conducting spot inspections of suppliers and social audits. It will help if business stops treating it like a publicrelations problem, rather than a human-rights issue charges one NGO advocate.
Perhaps the warning of Shel Silverstein can be posted on the entrance to every door of Parliament and Congress, as a reminder that “The googies are coming, the old people say, To buy little children and take them away... and maybe tonight, To buy little children and lock them up tight....”