Labor And Sex Trafficking A Concern in the Region
July 4, 2018 | View PDF
The Job Service Employer Committee recently helped to host an opportunity for local employers and community professionals to learn about the problem of sex and labor trafficking in the Richland County area. The Roundup spoke with Paula Eberling, who is the Director for the Seventh Judicial Victim Witness Program and is a crime victim advocate.
Speaking of the Job Service Employer Committee (abbreviated as JSEC), Eberling explained, "JSEC is a non-profit group that tries to address issues with which we can help our community by bringing trainings that would help us. We decided that we were going to start doing 'Lunch and Learns,' meaning that were going to invite the community to discuss topics we would like to educate or inform upon."
Eberling continued, "The topic of this Lunch and Learn is regarding labor and sex trafficking. At one of our JSEC meetings, the topic came around to human trafficking, and because I'm a victim advocate I have some knowledge of this, and we wanted to address that but also address labor trafficking. We wanted to educate our community and employers."
According to Eberling, problems related to human trafficking aren't foreign to Richland County, Eastern Montana, or the MonDak region. Eberling explained, "We discussed the problem as has been identified by the Attorney General's office, the State of Montana and organizations that are providing that documentation. Labor trafficking can be migrant workers, those working on VISAs, those working locally who work a lot of hours but who aren't being given fair pay."
Eberling gave specifics, saying, "I can give you an example of a woman who was working locally from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and whose paychecks amounted to about four hundred dollars. We have had some of these things happen and it's random, but with labor trafficking, in order to identify it, we need to bring attention to it so our employers know it really is something that is happening in our area. "
"Because we are rural," Eberling continued, "that creates a bigger vulnerability. The rural areas have agricultural work, ranching, service and sales, and when the boom came we had a huge diverse population and people will take advantage of it. We haven't always recognized that for what it is. We are isolated, and so traffickers see that as a key place to focus."
Tumbleweed, which provided much of the information given at the Lunch and Learn, is a nonprofit organization that works with runaway youth. They are headquartered in Billings, Montana, and provide services for runaway children and teens. Tumbleweed deals daily with the youth who are trafficked.
Eberling told the Roundup, "It is a community based agency. They haven't been highly advertised, but a number of years ago a lot of funding was released on the federal level, and Tumbleweed has been able to get some of that to runaway youth and they have done a fantastic job. Tumbleweed has the facts and statistics regarding the problem."
Regarding future plans, Eberling said, "We are looking forward to an event in which we will hopefully again work with Tumbleweed and additionally a few other organizations across the state to help get the word out and to organize. If we do another event we will make it quite a bit larger and make it available to the schools and entire community and working professionals, hopefully having the Attorney General and the government on board as well."