Is labor exploitation a factor for you or someone you know?




Through my preliminary stages of research, I have found that, “Slavery in America started in 1619, when the privateer The White Lion brought 20 African slaves ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia.” ( Editors). It should be noted that according to historical acts and movements like the abolishment of slavery, in the 19th century, people are deeply wounded and affected by the horrific measures of slavery. Although slavery began and ended centuries ago, it has continued to impact people of color in a multitude of ways, and “for black Americans the end of slavery was just the beginning of [the] quest for democratic equality” (Loury). Social justice has always been a passionate interest of mine, because I am a young woman of color, and issues of racial oppression and racism in America directly affect me, my future, and all of those around me in the nation. Racism in America has been rampant since its inception over the last few centuries. The racial climate in this country has left me perplexed, confused and concerned. It infuriates me to see how this country perpetuates the oppression of Black people, and does very little to acknowledge, resolve, and rectify discriminatory actions and abuses of racial power. Although we are technically centuries removed from slavery and are no longer in physical chains, the lack of equality continues to significantly stifle people of color. For this very reason, I chose, labor exploitation of African Americans in the United States and its presence in this day and age.

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(What Is to become of the Modern Slavery Bill?)

The history of the problem:

The exploitation of people of color in this nation has prohibited specifically, African Americans and Latinos from equality and basic human rights. Labor exploitation began when, “Slavery in America started in 1619, when the privateer The White Lion brought 20 African slaves ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia” ( Editors). There are questions as to how and why one would allow themselves to be exploited through labor? Why there was a shift from indentured servitude to slavery as the dominant labor force in the south? And, why not petition for higher wages for the same labor? “The most common understanding of exploitation in the literature of sweatshops interprets exploitation as taking unfair advantage of workers. In fact, exploitation is sometimes treated as synonymous with unfairness (Pimentel 2003). The link between exploitation and unfairness typically follows from Alan Wertheimer’s groundbreaking work on the subject of exploitation where he explicitly describes exploitation in terms of unfairness (Wertheimer 1996). As he defines it, ‘A exploits B when A takes unfair advantage of B’ (1996: 10)” (Snyder 2).

Over time, slavery in America has evolved into a less aggressive form called labor exploitation, and “An alternative view of [labor] exploitation associates its wrongness with a failure to treat others with respect or with a loss of dignity for the exploitee. In the context of sweatshop labor, low wage levels can be associated with degrading and disrespectful treatment of the worker (Popper 2006)” (Snyder 10).


Labor exploitation affects people of color, directly African Americans and people of Latin descent. Historically, Latinos have been paid pennies on the dollar for hard meaningful laborious work and the pay has not been commensurate for the work that has been done. Latin people have been an intrical part of this country’s agricultural farming, developments and harvesting. They have been forced to work long hard hours with no benefits and extreme working conditions related to language barriers and lack of proof of their immigration status. In the late 1990’s people of Latin descent continued to suffer employment exploitation; For example, “Using written notes and sign language, the immigrants told the police that they had been forced by a man who had smuggled them into the United States to work 18-hour days as trinket vendors, selling $1 key chains on subways and at airports” (Sontag). “Every night, they gave their earnings to him and were instructed to stay out until they had $100 to bring back” (Sontag).

In conclusion, despite the many advances, discoveries and changes that have happened in this nation, labor exploitation continues to be a reality for people of color. It is evident by the wage discrepancies between men and women, and between people of color and caucasian people that we have yet to reach equality. People will only be aware of inequalities in this world by educating others about labor fairness.

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Human trafficking data

What You Need to Know:

The exploitation of minorities in the United States of America is prevalent in youth and lower income communities because there is a general disparity that people of color experience due to the color of their skin, “black people, have been devalued and used for economic gain since the reconstruction” (Tina Opie and Laura Morgan Roberts). This disparity can make people of color more susceptible to the victimization of labor exploitation. Those who fall under this disparity are often less educated, poverty stricken and have decreased access to desirable employment (competitive wages, insurance, benefits and adherence to labor laws), related to racism and the prevalence of inequalities that are alive and well in this country. “Unfortunately, worker abuse – horrific, inhuman worker abuse – does occur in the US, and it’s more prevalent than you think” (Gravitz, Freundlich and Hamler).

Labor exploitation can be defined as the abuse of power an employee experiences which encompases unfair wages, unmanageable workloads, expectations of working overtime and unreasonable demands for the employer’s benefit.

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For Now:

Modern Day Solutions for Labor Exploitation


1.) Creation of Hotlines: A micro solution for labor exploitation would be the creation of hotlines for people to call and report any infractions of labor abuse in the workplace. These hotlines would be anonymous so that the person calling could keep their identity unknown to ultimately protect the worker. The details of the misconduct will be passed on to the proper authorities (i.e. labor board, police stations, and any investigating agencies).

2.) Advertisement: Disseminating advertisements depicting and describing labor exploitation is another micro solution. By describing, illustrating and outlining examples of labor exploitation people will become more informed and aware of improper conditions that can occur in the workplace. It is important that employees know their legal rights.



1.) Legislation & Education: Creating legislation that protects employees from exploitation and impose hefty fines and penalties would help deter employers from exploiting laborers. Before a person enters the workforce it should also be mandatory that they are given several forms of information educating them on what labor exploitation is (i.e. videos and pamphlets). By inserting education that covers labor exploitation prior to a person’s entry to the workforce (i.e. prior to high school and college graduation, and employment development agencies) it would ensure that people are more equipped to identify and report infractions of exploitation more readily. One of the resources that is currently available to all employees is the National Labor Relations Board. “[In 1935], congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy” (“National Labor Relations Board”).

2.) Catalogue employers known for abuse in the workplace: Another macro solution for labor exploitation would be to propagate catalogues of organizations known for labor exploitation (i.e. Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Walmart). By providing this information in public places such as, supermarkets, libraries, and gas stations it allows people to make more informed choices about potential employers and possible abuses in the workplace environment.

Works Cited:


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