Steps you can take to end modern slavery.
Increasing public awareness is half the battle of stopping slavery. “When the public stops asking, ‘What do you mean by slavery?' and ‘You mean slavery still exists?' (questions I have to answer several times a week), then slaves will be on their way to freedom,” writes Kevin Bales, author of Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. “One of the first things we have to do is admit our own ignorance.”
Organize a service or educational event at your church. Contact Unitarian Universalists Against Slavery for resources and examples of what other congregations have done.
Show your church or community group Slavery: A Global Investigation, a riveting documentary by Kate Blewett and Brian Woods.
Ask your book group to read and discuss a book about contemporary slavery, such as Disposable People by Kevin Bales or Escape from Slavery by Francis Bok.
Choose slavery as a school research project or ask your teacher for a unit on it.
Write a letter to your local paper mentioning that slavery is believed to exist in almost every state.
Participate in Anti-Slavery Day on February 27, or monthly house parties connected by conference call, both organized by Free the Slaves (below).
“Our government could, if it chose, take a very proactive stance against slavery, and it has not,” says UUA President William G. Sinkford. “There's a role for UUs to advocate with our national government.” To keep abreast of legislative efforts, sign up for the Free the Slaves newsletter.
Support efforts that push corporations to ensure the suppliers they buy from do not use slave labor. Subscribe to the UUSC's action alerts at uusc.org/news/currentalerts.
Ask if your pension fund, mutual fund, and stockbroker can ensure that you are not investing in companies linked to slave labor. If not, move your money to socially screened investment vehicles that can.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in Florida, which has brought five confirmed cases of slavery to light since 1999, has asked Taco Bell, a major buyer of Florida tomatoes, to ensure that its suppliers do not engage in sweatshop or slavery conditions. The company refused to respond, so in 2001 the coalition initiated a consumer boycott of the fast-food chain. A boycott of all Florida tomatoes would hurt all pickers, but this boycott targets a major buyer, asking for a change in its practices. The coalition has organized demonstrations around the country, which UU churches have helped support.
Church groups, including the UU Migrant Ministry and the UUSC, have endorsed the boycott. This past spring executives from Taco Bell and parent company Yum Foods agreed to talks and acknowledged that changes must be made, but no agreement had been reached by press time.
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Kimberly French, a UU World contributing editor, has also written for Salon, Tikkun, Utne Reader, and other publications. She leads the Climate Justice Team at First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleborough, Massachusetts, and chairs her town’s Community Preservation Committee.
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