The NFL playoffs, particularly the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, are high season for human trafficking. But trafficking is a year round problem, one the Rev. Brian McVey of Davenport, Iowa has devoted himself to fighting. Rekha Basu of the DesMoines Register writes:
Rev. Brian McVey, rector of Davenport’s St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, does this every time he stays in a hotel: He asks the maids if they’re getting paid. Some say no, or that they are now. When he asked four maids at a four-star hotel in Nashville, they immediately took off, never to return. The hotel had contracted with a third party, who collected the money. It’s unlikely the women saw any of it.
Hotel maids, like restaurant workers, gardeners and seasonal field hands, are frequently brought into their jobs through human trafficking, which is believed to be a $30 billion-plus industry. “John Deere does that much in revenues,” quips McVey, a trafficking expert for the Episcopal Church, whose fast-talking style belies his financial-brokerage past before he answered a higher call. Most labor trafficking is in foreign workers who go unpaid and/or are placed in deplorable working conditions. A smaller subset, sex trafficking, is more likely to involve Americans, lured in through force, fraud or coercion, often groomed at early ages, recruited at shopping malls or on Facebook.
The Super Bowl is in New Jersey this year (Feb. 2), and Mary O’Shaughnessy recently provided a primer on human trafficking and how the church can respond in an article for the Diocese of Newark. She writes:
One project that is in place for the Super Bowl, in concert with area hotels, involves soap. Interfaith and ecumenical groups are working to wrap hotel soaps with wrappers printed with an anti-trafficking hotline number. The event S.O.A.P. up Super Bowl 2014, taking place January 25 and 26, 2014, is one such effort. This is an evolution of a tactic used in early efforts to combat domestic violence: Lipstick tubes had a domestic violence hotline number tucked into them, on the rationale that men don’t look into cosmetic cases. This project is part of an outreach to hotels, which includes training for their staffs on detecting the presence of prostitution and trafficking.
January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day in New Jersey. The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking has a downloadable Action Idea Booklet [Word format] which includes a section with ideas and resources specifically for religious communities, ranging from simple efforts to more involved ones. Prayers and other resources for congregations are being posted on the Justice Board page of the diocesan website. During Diocesan Convention, workshops on trafficking will take place so that deputies may gather more information for their congregations.