- Felicia Matlosz
SACRAMENTO, CA – Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) has introduced Assembly Bill 1820 to establish a Labor Trafficking Unit that will investigate and prosecute perpetrators who force or coerce vulnerable people into jobs with little or no pay, often under poor and unsafe working conditions.
AB 1820, the California Labor Trafficking Prevention Act, seeks to protect workers in California and prevent this type of exploitation. For years, the State has rightfully directed attention to sex trafficking. However, there has been no coordinated effort focused on labor trafficking, leaving workers vulnerable to threats regarding their immigration status, their families’ safety, and their wages.
The Little Hoover Commission, which is an independent state oversight agency in California, has devoted extensive attention to the issue through a series of reports. The Commission found that the State does not know how farreaching labor trafficking is in California, but that preliminary data showed survivors who sought help are men and women of all ages, working in a wide range of industries.
Assemblymember Arambula said: “We must establish a Labor Trafficking Unit to help stop this cruel and
inhumane treatment of workers who only want to make a living and provide for their families. For the first time, California would have a unit specifically assigned to investigate and prosecute unscrupulous perpetrators. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted that we must protect workers and ensure that their working conditions are safe and sound.”
Under AB 1820, the Labor Trafficking Unit would be established within the state Department of Industrial
Relations. The unit would be required to receive, investigate, and prosecute complaints alleging labor trafficking. In addition, the unit would follow protocols to ensure survivors of these crimes are not victimized by the prosecution process, and that they are informed of services available to them.
Co-sponsors of the bill are the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative at Loyola Law School.
Christopher Sanchez, Policy Advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said: “People are being forced into labor trafficking right now in California – most coming from poverty conditions. The introduction of this bill sends a message that California will not tolerate the exploitation of workers and their families. Western Center on Law and Poverty is a proud co-sponsor of this legislation to bring justice to trafficked workers.”
Joseph Villela, Policy Director at Loyola Law School, the Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative, said:
“Despite some progress, California continues to have the highest number of victims of human trafficking in the US over the last two decades. These alarming numbers, coupled with COVID-19, made human trafficking even more invisible and increased the risk of vulnerable people becoming victims of trafficking. To that end, we applaud Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula for authoring AB 1820, which seeks to ensure that California proactively addresses all forms of human trafficking, including labor trafficking. This bill provides the authority to Department of Industrial Relations to utilize its current infrastructure to investigate and address labor trafficking.”