“There are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history.  True abolition will elude us until we admit the massive scope of the problem, attack it in all its forms, and empower slaves to help free themselves.”

So reads the intro to “A World Enslaved,” E. Benjamin Skinner’s piece in March/April 2008 issue of Foreign Policy:  Unfortunately, there’s enough to fill a book, and so Skinner has written A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery (2008).

We may not grasp the prevalence of slavery in part because other terms are used, such as sex trafficking.  For example, my Suffolk colleague Sara Dillon, an authority on international children’s rights, has written a thoughtful and provocative law review article on child sex trafficking, “What Human Rights Law Obscures: Global Sex Trafficking and the Demand for Children,” published earlier this year in the UCLA Women’s Law Journal:

There are few more fundamental abuses of human dignity and labor.

2 responses

  1. Interesting that you post about slavery. To me, the modern worker has embraced (or been taught to embrace) the idea that she or he is a “wage slave.” What I mean by that is that American workers seem to blindly accept that once they are employed, the employer has “purchased” them and has free reign to do whatever it likes to whomever it likes. Most workers (particularly white collar white males) identify their interests with the employer’s interests. This identification is totally wrong. I think the acceptance of employment as “wage slavery” has contributed to workplace bullying as accepted because American workers think that their employers are allowed to treat them however they want because the employers have paid for their services. We need to return to the idea of labor as a commodity owned by the worker and purchased by the employer.

    • Rebecca, absolutely! As fellow employment lawyers we know that America’s law of the workplace is grounded in the ancient legal relationship of master and servant. But at least most American workers have a greater degree of choice than the poor souls covered in these articles. We need to change the framework. I’ve been arguing that human dignity should be that frame.

      Thanks for the comment!

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