Earlier this week, the United Auto Workers (UAW) held a vote on whether to unionize a Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen factory. After a three day voting period, the unionizing measure was defeated, and the plants workers chose to remain non-union. There was a claim made by several on the left (including by the well-known internet talk show The Young Turks) that Volkswagen was unfairly influencing the election. That claim is untrue. Volkswagen publically supported the union. The Volkswagen Group is owned by the state government of Saxony, Porsche, and several smaller stakeholders. The company has a works-council in Germany which gives unions and workers a greater say in the direction of the company. There was a media firestorm of criticism aimed at Senator Bob Corker, who voiced his opposition with the union plan and encouraged workers to vote against it. MSNBC host Chris Hayes said that his comments were government interfering in the affairs of a private company. In reality a government official spoke his opinion about an upcoming vote in a private company. To be fair, several Tennessee legislatures pondered withholding incentives for the company, and this is absolutely reprehensive.
However, the claim that non-union car workers are making low wages with no benefits is simply false. Another German car company, Mercedes-Benz, has a plant in Alabama where they produce several of their SUVs and the C-Class luxury sedan. At that plant, the average worker’s salary is $75,151 annually. At BMW’s factory in South Carolina, the average salary is $68,000 (Salary List). Many foreign automakers have opened factories in the South and Midwest such as Honda in Ohio, Nissan in Mississippi, and Hyundai in Alabama. These factories have had a good impact on the economy of these states. Ultimately, the union vote in Tennessee was an open election and the workers chose to reject the union. There are good jobs to be had, even if they are non-union jobs, and people want them.
Most people in America think that slavery ended in 1865, when the thirteenth amendment abolishing the barbaric practice was adapted into the US Constitution. We’ve come a long way since 1865. Today, we have an African American as our president and even South Carolina, the first state to leave the union, is represented by Tim Scott, an African American. But slavery still exists in America. Not slavery based on race but based on gender. I am referring to human trafficking.
This weekend millions of Americans will watch the Super Bowl, held in New Jersey, on TV, radio, or in person. But there’s a dark underside to this American tradition. Statistics are hard to come by but it is believed that the Super Bowl is the biggest gathering of trafficked individuals in the United States, and possibly in the world. It’s not just this Super Bowl either. In 2011, when the Super Bowl was held in Texas, the Lone Star State’s attorney general Greg Abbott told USA Today that the Super bowl is “commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” Abbott wasn’t kidding: there were 133 arrests in Dallas for underage prostitution that year. A report by Forbes magazine stated that around 10,000 prostitutes were in Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl. Fighting this disturbing trend are a dedicated group of activists, many of whom were formerly trafficked individuals. One organization has partnered with hotel chains to put trafficking hotlines on bars of soap in hotel room bathrooms to help trafficked women escape.
Fortunately, politicians in America are finally taking notice. Recently, New Jersey Congressman Christopher Smith as well as Governor Chris Christie have taken a stand to stop the exploitation that seems poised to occur in their state. Smith didn’t hide the issues his state has had with trafficking, saying “New Jersey has a huge trafficking problem. One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks. Speaking at a recent event was Lexi Smith (no relation to the aforementioned congressman), a former sex slave. “The chains of modern day slavery are in the mind, not the hands and feet”, she said.
New Jersey state officials have been training policemen as well as civilians on how to identify signs of human trafficking. The state has partnered with community organizations, local businesses, and churches to combat this trend. But as many of the tireless activists fighting this issue will tell you, it’s not just a Super Bowl problem. It is a constant presence all over the country.
New Jersey isn’t the only state fighting trafficking. Ohio has launched a “war on human trafficking” and it seems to be working. Last year, Governor John Kasich began a new initiative to end human trafficking in the state. In an emotional speech launching the project Kasich drew from his own family life “I’ve got two twelve year old daughters. But all those twelve-year-old girls across the state are in a way my daughters. They’re all of our daughters. They’re all in our families. Can you tell me, how a thirteen year old kid can be snatched, blackmailed, drugged, raped, in our state; in our country. One of the greatest men who lived in the history of Great Britain was William Wilberforce […] William Wilberforce spent his entire life fighting the slave trade business; fighting slavery. And he was savaged for his work. He’s buried in Westminster Abbey. […] Sometimes people say I push really hard. Is there anything we should push harder for than the abolition of the slave trade amongst our teenagers in our state? I can’t think of anything.” This new crusade has yielded impressive results. A few days ago, Gregory Krajnyk was sentenced to thirteen years in prison for running a human trafficking ring, which he had operated for four years. The sting also brought down Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William F. Kaczmarek.
This issue of modern day slavery is present all over the country. We should all get together and encourage our elected officials of both parties to follow the example of Smith, Christie, and Kasich and fight this evil.