Vanda Moore recalled the poster she saw on a utility pole in Louisville.
“It said ‘pregnant’ with a question mark, and ‘need help’ and it had a phone number,” said Moore, president of the Derby City Coalition of Trade Union Women.
“That’s human trafficking. I never knew that until somebody told me.”
The poster is typical of ruses often used by criminals to kidnap young women and girls, many of them homeless or immigrants, and force them to become prostitutes.
“If you call that number, a person will come and pick you up. You’re thinking they’re coming to help you, but they’re coming to put you in human trafficking.”
Added Moore: “They kidnap people, they drug them up, and they put them out on the street. I heard one of the victims say that when she was 11-years-old, she was taken. She said they gave her some kind of pills; she didn’t know what they were.
“She said they put her on the street the first day. There is no such thing as a child prostitute because children don’t volunteer to do that. They are victims.”
Moore is in her second term as president of the Derby City CLUW chapter. It’s part of the national Coalition of Labor Union Women which was founded in 1974 with four goals: to “organize the unorganized; promote affirmative action; increase women’s participation in their unions; and increase women’s participation in political and legislative activities.”
Derby City CLUW is working to raise local awareness of human trafficking, a modern form of slavery that also includes forced labor. Human trafficking is growing worldwide.
The Louisville CLUW chapter held a seminar on human trafficking last Saturday at the United Auto Workers Local 862 Hall on Fern Valley Road. Moore works at the nearby Ford plant and belongs to Local 862.
Moore said most Americans are unaware that human trafficking happens in their communities. “A lot of the union members are often the first people to see the victims.” She cited city bus drivers, store clerks, and truck drivers.
“A lot of these victims are at truck stops trying to get away. We are to trying to make people aware of what to look for. They probably can’t stop it, but they can call the police.
The women who are trapped in this life don’t want to do it. But they don’t see a way out.”
Derby City CLUW members stay busy with other community projects. They help in the annual National Association of Letter Carriers’ food drive in May, and they volunteer for the yearly Christmas Angel Tree program, which provides clothing and toys for needy children.
In addition, Moore said the chapter helped District Judge Stephanie Burke after they learned that some local drug rehabilitation programs don’t provide feminine hygiene products for women. She explained that Burke had been paying for the products out of her own pocket.
“So we were able to donate some feminine products to her that she took to women in the different drug rehabs.”
Falls City-born Augusta Thomas helped start the Louisville chapter. At age 85 she is still on the job in Washington as national vice president for women and fair practices with the American Federation of Government Employees.
“We’re a sisterhood still fighting the same battles,” Moore said. “Equal rights, voting rights, equal pay, the right to choose.”
She praised President Barack Obama for pushing for equal pay. “But it seems that President Trump is nipping that in the bud.”
Moore stressed that Derby City CLUW includes men. “There is strength in numbers; it’s just like the union. The more there are, the more we can work together and the more that we can accomplish.”
She said her chapter has about 74 members and meets monthly. “We are always looking for new members. We even have a 15-year-old girl. The union is like a family. When you need something or have a problem, we work together to help fix it.”
CLUW, which also has chapters in Canada, is the only nationwide organization for union women in the U.S. Its mission is to “unify all union women in a viable organization to determine our common problems and concerns and to develop action programs within the framework of our unions to deal effectively with our objectives,” the website says.
Featured image by Ira Gelb