Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $975,209)
Although law enforcement and community interest in human trafficking has increased tremendously since the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was enacted in 2000, most anti-trafficking efforts have focused on sex trafficking. Labor trafficking, when prioritized at all, is often conceptualized as a singular phenomenon—the variation in industries in which labor trafficking occurs and the variation in victim experiences within these industries are sorely overlooked. The lack of sector-specific knowledge about labor trafficking victimization limits the extent to which law enforcement, regulatory agencies, health officials, and community-based advocates can identify and respond to this crime. This study will offer the first focused examination of labor trafficking among construction and hospitality workers and will include the lived experiences of workers, regardless of whether their exploitation and victimization have been formally identified. Focusing on two very different labor sectors will enable us to explore whether and how labor trafficking vulnerability and victimization vary between distinct industries. We will address three main questions: (1) Does labor trafficking victimization manifest differently in distinct industries?; (2) What is the underlying supply chain and network structure of labor trafficking in the construction and hospitality industries?; and (3) Are there points throughout recruitment, control, and concealment of labor trafficking in these industries that could present opportunities for identification and intervention? These questions will be answered through mapping labor trafficking supply chains in federally prosecuted cases, interviewing key stakeholders, surveying individuals who have experienced labor exploitation or trafficking in these industries, and conducting in-depth follow-up interviews with a subsample of survey respondents who have experienced more severe forms of abuse. Federally prosecuted cases may come from any U.S. location, and surveys and interviews will be conducted in counties in Colorado, Illinois, and New York. Collectively, the study findings will inform the development of policies and practices to better identify, disrupt, and prevent trafficking and will form an empirical basis for addressing labor trafficking in individual industries rather than in aggregate. Findings will benefit and be actionable for criminal justice practitioners, labor regulating agencies, victim service providers and advocates, policymakers, researchers, and the public. The research team will publish major findings from this research in relevant scholarly outlets and develop a series of accessible practitioner-oriented materials to improve the understanding of labor trafficking and provide tangible, actionable strategies to better identify victims and disrupt labor trafficking networks and activities.