THEY DON'T GO TO SCHOOL, THEY GO TO WORK AT 4 AM AND WORK UNTIL 7PM, ONE HOUR LESS THAN THE ADULTS WORK.
THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 218 MILLION CHILD LABORERS WORLDWIDE.
THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 218 MILLION CHILD LABORERS WORLDWIDE.
WHOLE FOODS, TARGET, TRADER JOE'S, WALMART, RED LOBSTER, OLIVE GARDEN...THE LIST IS LONG OF AMERICAN BUSINESSES SELLING SLAVE-PEELED SHRIMP.
The AP investigation, which has led to the freeing of THOUSANDS of indentured fishermen [and more THOUSANDS of enslaved workers, including children], dozens of arrests and millions of dollars in seizures, found that most grocery stores and pet stores selling pet food in every state in America are still selling shrimp packaged by companies in especially Thailand that hold slaves and use slave labor, including very young children.
THEY'RE STILL BUYING THAT CHEAPER SHRIMP BECAUSE THEY STILL LIKE THE PROFITS.
'ALL' WE WOULD HAVE TO DO TO BRING BACK EVERY COMPANY THAT HAS MOVED ABROAD, AND KEEP OTHER COMPANIES FROM DOING SO, IS TO BRING BACK HUMAN SLAVERY.
THAT'S WHAT THEY COUNT ON FINDING IN MOST NATIONS THEY MOVE TO, THAT OR WAGES SO LOW IT'S CRIMINAL, AND NO 8-HOUR DAYS.
SLAVE LABOR OR $1 A DAY LABOR AND 16-HOUR SHIFTS MEAN MORE $$$$$ IN THE POCKETS OF AMERICAN BUSINESSES AND THEY WOULDN'T CARE IF THOSE SLAVES WERE YOUR GRANDCHILDREN OR MINE.
In 2014, the Guardian shed light on an uncomfortable — and unfortunate — truth about much of the shrimp sold in North America, Europe, Japan and elsewhere around the world.
A six-month-long investigation revealed that torture, wage-theft, beatings and various other illegal practices were a reality in the production chain of the world's largest supplier.
"If you buy prawns or shrimp from Thailand, you WILL be buying the produce of slave labor," Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, told the Guardian at the time.
And many countries do, including the United States, which imports about HALF of the shrimp Thailand harvests.
KNOWN LOOPHOLES, WHICH WE MAY SURMISE ARE INTENTIONAL LOOPHOLES SINCE THEY ARE KNOWN, ALLOW AMERICA TO BUY A LOT OF THINGS THAT MIGHT OTHERWISE BE BANNED.
SHRIMP FROM SLAVE FACTORIES IS JUST ONE SUCH PRODUCT.
After the U.S. vowed to crack down, STILL, almost two years later, the problem persists.
A new report published on Monday by the Associated Press holds that such abuses are still rampant in the Thai shrimp industry.
What's more, major markets around the world aren't doing a good job of keeping shrimp peeled by modern-day slaves out of their food system.
AS WE SEE EVERY DAY, TIME AND TIME AGAIN, AMERICAN CORPORATIONS DON'T GIVE A HANG ABOUT ANYTHING BUT PROFIT.
THAI SHRIMP IS CHEAP, AND THAT MEANS BIGGER PROFITS WHEN AMERICAN BUSINESSES SELL TO CONSUMERS.
SO WHAT IF A 6-YEAR-OLD SLAVE IS PEELING SHRIMP 14-16 HOURS A DAY?
WHO CARES, RIGHT?
SHRIMP IS AN AMERICAN FAVORITE!
HALF A MILLION SLAVES IN THAILAND
Thailand is hardly the only offender — the U.S. State Department has tied some 55 countries to such practices — but it is among the worst offenders.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that the country is home to nearly half a million enslaved workers, and specifically cites the shrimp industry as a leading contributor.
The AP tracked shrimp from one unregulated peeling shed to a number of major exporters, all of which claimed to abhor the very practices that were helping to boost THEIR supply.
Several American companies told the AP that their supplier had assured them their shrimp wasn't being served at the expense of abusive labor practices
AND THEY DIDN'T CARE TO CHECK HOW HONEST THOSE SUPPLIERS WERE BEING BECAUSE THE PRICE WAS RIGHT.
'KA-CHING, KA-CHING", PROFITS!
The AP published a list of grocers that it visited randomly and found such shrimp (the list runs dozens of companies long), but the problem is likely far more extensive.
Companies, meanwhile, have denied that shrimp made from slave labor is entering their supply chains, despite the fact that the AP investigation found otherwise.
On Monday, Martha Mendoza, who was part of the team that conducted the investigation, participated in a Reddit "Ask me Anything," where experts, celebrities and other people of public interest open themselves up to questions.
She said they found that just about every grocery store in the United States had supply chains that could be linked to modern-day slavery.
ONE FAMILY'S TALE OF SLAVERY
SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand (AP) — Every morning at 2 a.m., they heard a kick on the door and a threat: Get up or get beaten.
For the next 16 hours, No. 31 and his wife stood in the factory that owned them with their aching hands in ice water.
They ripped the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp bound for overseas markets, including grocery stores and all-you-can-eat buffets across the United States.
After being sold to the Gig Peeling Factory, they were at the mercy of their Thai bosses, trapped with nearly 100 other Burmese migrants.
Children worked alongside them, including a girl so tiny she had to stand on a stool to reach the peeling table.
Some had been there for months, even years, getting little or no pay.
Always, someone was watching.
No names were ever used, only numbers given by their boss — Tin Nyo Win was No. 31.
Hundreds of shrimp peeling sheds are hidden in plain sight on residential streets or behind walls with no signs in Samut Sakhon, a port town an hour outside Bangkok.
The AP found one factory that was enslaving dozens of workers, and runaway migrants led rights groups to the Gig shed and a third facility.
All three sheds held 50 to 100 people each, many locked inside.
As Tin Nyo Win soon found out for himself, there's no easy escape.
One woman had been working at Gig for eight years.
Another man ended up peeling shrimp there after breaking free from an equally brutal factory.
"I was shocked after working there a while, and I realized there was no way out," said Tin Nyo Win, 22, who has a baby face and teeth stained red from chewing betel nut.
"I told my wife, 'We're in real trouble. If something ends up going wrong, we're going to die.'"
Inside the large warehouse, toilets overflowed with feces, and the putrid smell of raw sewage wafted from an open gutter just outside the work area.
Young children ran barefoot through suffocating dorm rooms.
Entire families labored side-by-side at rows of stainless steel counters piled high with tubs of shrimp.
Tin Nyo Win and his wife, Mi San, were cursed for not peeling fast enough and called "cows" and "buffalos."
They were allowed to go outside for food only if one of them stayed behind as insurance against running away.
But escaping was all they could think about.
Tin Nyo Win and his wife were taken to the Gig Peeling Factory in July when they made the long drive from Myanmar across the border, crammed so tightly into a truck with other workers that they could barely breathe.
Like many migrants, they were lured from home by a broker with promises of good-paying jobs, and came without visas or work permits.
After being sold to the Gig shed, the couple learned they would have to work off what was considered their combined worth — $830.
It was an insurmountable debt.
Because they were illegal workers, the owners constantly threatened to call police to keep them in line.
Even documented migrants were vulnerable because the boss held onto identification papers so they could not leave.
Under the U.S. government's definition, forced labor and debt bondage are considered slavery.
Tin Nyo Win and his wife peeled about 175 pounds of shrimp for just $4 a day, less than half of what they were promised.
[THIS WAS APPLIED TO THEIR DEBT.]
A female Thai manager, who slapped and cursed workers, often cut their wages without explanation.
Employees said they had to work even when they were ill.
Seventeen children peeled alongside adults, sometimes crying, at stations where paint chipped off the walls and slick floors were eaten away by briny water.
Lunch breaks were only 15 minutes, and migrants were yelled at for talking too much.
Several workers said a woman died recently because she didn't get proper medical care for her asthma.
Children never went to school and began peeling shrimp just an hour later than adults.
"We had to get up at 3 in the morning and then start working continuously," said Eae Hpaw, AGE 16, whose arms were a patchwork of scars from infections and allergies caused by the shrimp.
"We stopped working around 7 in the evening. We would take a shower and sleep. Then we would start again."
After being roughed up one night by a supervisor, five months into their captivity, Tin Nyo Win and his wife decided they couldn't take the threats anymore.
"They would say, 'There's a gun in the boss's car and we're going to come and shoot you, and no one will know,'" he said.
The next morning, the couple saw an opportunity when the door wasn't being watched.
Less than 24 hours later, Tin Nyo Win's wife was captured at a market by the shed manager.
He watched helplessly as she was dragged away by her hair, terrified for her — and the baby they recently learned she was carrying.
After fleeing the Gig shed, Tin Nyo Win was alone.
He didn't even know where the shed manager had taken his wife.
He sought help from a local labor rights group, which prompted police to take action.
At dawn on Nov. 9, nearly two weeks after running away, he returned to the shed wearing dark glasses, a hat and a mask to keep the owners from recognizing him.
He burst through the gate with dozens of officers and military troops, and frantically searched for his wife in the dim quarters on both floors of the maze-like complex.
Frightened Burmese workers huddled on the dirty concrete floor, the men and women separated. Some could be heard whispering: "That's 31. He came back."
One young mother breast-fed a 5-month-old baby, while 17 children were taken to a corner.
Tin Nyo Win's wife was nowhere.
With law enforcement leading the way, it didn't take long to find her, though: Mi San was at a nearby fish factory.
After being caught by the shed manager, she was taken to police.
But instead of treating her as a trafficking victim, she said they put her back to work.
Even as police and her husband escorted her out of the second factory, the Thai owner followed them into the street, complaining that Mi San still owed $22 for the pork and chicken she ate.
It looked like a victory in front of the cameras.
But the story does not end there.
No one at the Gig shed was arrested for human trafficking, a law that's seldom enforced.
Instead, migrants with papers, including seven children, were sent back there to work.
Another 10 undocumented children were taken from their parents and put into a shelter, forced to choose between staying there for years or being deported back to Myanmar alone.
Nineteen other illegal workers were detained.
Tin Nyo Win and his wife soon found out that not even whistleblowers are protected. Just four days after being reunited, the couple was fingerprinted and locked inside a Thai jail cell without even a mattress.
They were held on nearly $4,000 bail and charged with entering the country illegally and working without permits.
Back at the shed where their nightmare began, a worker reached by phone pleaded for help as trucks loaded with slave-peeled shrimp continued to roll out.
The Gig Peeling Factory is now closed, with workers moved to another shed linked to the same owners, said Chaiyuth Thomya, the superintendent of Samut Sakhon's main police station.
A Gig owner reached by phone by the AP declined to comment.
Jaruwat, the Bangkok police official, was alerted to how the case was being handled and has ordered local authorities to re-investigate it for human trafficking, and arrests have since been made.
Tin Nyo Win and his pregnant wife were released from jail 10 days after they were locked up and are now being housed in a government shelter for victims of human trafficking.
Chaiyuth called a meeting to explain human trafficking laws to nearly 60 shed owners, some of whom were confused about raids that swept up illegal migrants.
Later, Chaiyuth quoted one shed owner as saying, "I'm not selling drugs, why did they take possession of my things?"
Meanwhile, the AP informed labor rights investigators who work closely with police about another shed where workers said they were being held against their will. It is being examined.
AN EASY TRAIL TO FOLLOW, FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO FOLLOW IT...
Last month, AP journalists followed and filmed trucks loaded with freshly peeled shrimp from the Gig shed to major Thai exporting companies and then, using U.S. customs records and Thai industry reports, tracked it globally.
They also traced similar connections from another factory raided six months earlier, and interviewed more than two dozen workers from both sites.
U.S. customs records show the shrimp made its way into the supply chains of major U.S. food stores and retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Dollar General and Petco, along with restaurants such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden.
It also entered the supply chains of some of America's best-known seafood brands and pet foods, including Chicken of the Sea and Fancy Feast, which are sold in grocery stores from Safeway and Schnucks to Piggly Wiggly and Albertsons.
AP reporters went to supermarkets in all 50 states and found shrimp products from supply chains tainted with forced labor.
Shrimp is the most-loved seafood in the U.S., with Americans downing 1.3 billion pounds every year, or about 4 pounds per person.
Once a luxury reserved for special occasions, it became cheap enough for stir-fries and scampis when Asian farmers started growing it in ponds three decades ago.
Thailand quickly dominated the market and now sends nearly half of its supply to the U.S.
The Southeast Asian country is one of the worst human trafficking hubs on earth.
It has been blacklisted for the past two years by the U.S. State Department, which cited complicity by Thai officials.
The European Union issued a warning earlier this year that tripled seafood import tariffs, and is expected to decide next month whether to impose an outright ban.
Consumers enjoy the convenience of dumping shrimp straight from freezer to skillet, the result of labor-intensive peeling and cleaning.
Unable to keep up with demand, exporters get their supply from peeling sheds that are sometimes nothing more than crude garages adjacent to the boss's house.
BOTTOM LINE...WE EITHER CARE OR WE DON'T.
THOSE WHO DO CARE HAVE BUT ONE REAL CHOICE, YES?
DON'T BUY SHRIMP OR ANYTHING ELSE FROM THAILAND AND OTHER NATIONS THAT USE SLAVE LABOR.
SINCE CONGRESS RESCINDED THE "COUNTRY OF ORIGIN" RULE THAT LABELED ALL FOOD WITH A NATION OF ORIGIN TAG, WE WILL NEVER AGAIN KNOW WHERE OUR FOOD COMES FROM.
THAT WAS PART OF OUR NEW AGREEMENT WITH NOT ONLY CANADA AND MEXICO BUT ASIA, AS WE MOVE FORWARD ON THAT "PACIFIC TRADE TREATY".
EAT IT AND SMILE, AMERICANS...OR RAISE A LITTLE HELL, MAYBE, WITH OUR ELECTEDS?
AGAIN, OUR CHOICE.
PARTIAL LIST OF STORES SELLING SLAVE-PEELED SHRIMP
Trader Joe's, operated by Aldi Nord, Harris-Teeter, Target; Van's Thriftway; Vons; Wal-Mart; Whole Foods; Winn-Dixie.Acme Markets; Albertsons; Aldi; Bi-Lo; Carrs-Safeway; Cash Wise; Crest Foods; Cub Foods; D'Agostino Supermarket; Dan's Supermarket; Dollar General; Edwards Food Giant; Family Dollar; Foodland; Fred Meyer; Giant Eagle; H-E-B; Hy-Vee; Jerry's Foods; Jewel-Osco; Jons International Marketplace; Kroger; Lowes Foods; Mariano's; Market Basket; Marsh Supermarkets; Martin's Super Markets; McDade's Market; Pavilions; Petco; Piggly Wiggly; Price Chopper; Publix; Ralphs; Randall's Food Market; Redner's Warehouse Markets; Russ's Market; Safeway; Save Mart; Schnucks; Shaws; ShopRite; Smart & Final; Sprouts Farmers Market; Stater Bros.; Stop & Shop; Sunshine Foods;
FROM MAKING BRICKS AND BUILDING MOUNTAIN ROADS BY HAND, CHILDREN, EVEN TODDLERS, ARE FORCED TO WORK LONG HOURS EVERY DAY IN MANY NATIONS FROM WHICH WE EITHER PURCHASE GOODS OR HAVE AMERICAN COMPANIES USING SUCH LABOR AND IMPORTING THOSE GOODS BACK HOME TO US, OFTEN AS "MADE IN AMERICA".
IMAGINE...TRY TO IMAGINE HOW LIFE FEELS TO CHILDREN FORCED TO WORK?
THIS IS ALL THEY CAN LOOK FORWARD TO...WORK...AND AN EARLY GRAVE.
NO LIFE FOR A CHILD: NEPAL'S 1.6 MILLION CHILD LABORERS
Though child labor is illegal in Nepal, an estimated 1.6 million children between the ages of five and 17 years are in the work force, according to the National Child Labor Report.
MODERN DAY SLAVES, A PHOTO GALLERY
"The photos are meant to bring the problems of contemporary slavery and human trafficking to life: to show you who the "modern day slaves" are and to humanize these problems. You will also see demonstrated in these photos the many forms modern day slavery and human trafficking take as well as the many geographical locations that are affected by them. Please click on each picture to see a larger version and a brief description of the type of human trafficking and/or contemporary slavery that is represented."
VIDEO: Tortured Fisherman Slave Returns Home After 22 Years:
IN PAKISTAN, MOSTLY YOUNG GIRLS ARE USED TO PROCESS SEAFOOD/SHRIMP
IN BANGLADESH, WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE ALSO MOST OFTEN USED
PROCESSING TUNA IS ANOTHER INDUSTRY THAT USES SLAVE LABOR
VIDEO: US Supply Chain Tainted by Slave-Caught Fish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgYgAVQG5lk