This week, state Sen. Judy Schwank issued a co-sponsorship memorandum on her plan to require employers in the lodging and truck stop industry to provide Human Trafficking Awareness training to employees.
Human trafficking is a crime and a human rights abuse in which perpetrators use force, coercion, or fraud to compel victims into servitude or commercial sexual exploitation. Act 130, commonly referred to as Safe Harbor, was signed into law in 2018. It created immunity for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation from some crimes, gave direction to the Department of Human Services to coordinate specialized services for sexually exploited children, required training for law enforcement on how to identify and help victims, and established the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to support care for victims and to prevent human trafficking. Schwank’s proposed legislation would build on Safe Harbor and help individuals who are likely to interact with human trafficking victims identify warning signs.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association does connect members and their staff with free human trafficking prevention training via Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking. BEST offers comprehensive human trafficking prevention training across the country. The training is voluntary and is offered as a courtesy program to its members and staff. Schwank’s proposed legislation would require those industries to receive training once every two years. The training must be 20 minutes long and must be within six months of the beginning of employment.
“Human trafficking remains a very serious threat in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. Providing valuable training to our restaurant and truck stop industry workers would equip them with the tools they need to identify warning signs and potentially help a victim who finds themselves in a perilous situation.”
Schwank added that the General Assembly has a record of working cooperatively to address human trafficking in Pennsylvania and believes her plan will garner broad bipartisan support.
“We’ve had some success getting meaningful legislation through both chambers on this issue in the past and I believe we can do it again,” Schwank said. “It’s too important and we owe it to the victims of these heinous crimes to do everything we can to help them. Even if it saves just one life, it’s worth it.”
California, Florida, Illinois, and Texas are among other states that have enacted similar laws.