On Monday the Senate Law and Justice Committee heard testimony on Sen. Mike Padden’s proposal to combat sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults by having Washington hotels and motels conduct training on preventing human trafficking.
Under Senate Bill 6356, hotels would provide annual training to their employees on identifying human-trafficking situations, and post signage regarding human-trafficking awareness. Padden, R-Spokane Valley, received input from the lodging and hospitality industries in drafting the legislation and said many are welcoming guidance in addressing potential trafficking at their properties.
“We are a state that has a particularly high risk for human trafficking due to our international border and several ports,” said Padden, who is the Republican leader on the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “We can’t turn a blind eye to criminals who use hotels as a venue for sex trafficking or forced labor.”
SB 6356 received broad support from human-trafficking victims and advocates, who relayed stories of being forced into sexual slavery and explained how Padden’s bill could have helped them.
“I believe this training has the ability to save lives,” said Erik Gray, programs director at the Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative. “I was trafficked out of Kitsap County at the age of fourteen, and regularly entered rooms with buyers, going right pass the front desk. I often wondered to myself how, at 14 years old, could this happen to me. How was I not stopped?”
Several members of the hospitality industry also testified in support of the bill.
“Hospitality is not the only industry that traffickers use to exploit their victims, but we know our industry is a target,” said Samantha Louderback with the Washington Hospitality Association. “We know that training can save lives and we are proud to be doing our part to end this criminal activity by supporting this legislation.”
Anna Boone with the Seattle Hotel Association, which represents more than 80 hotels, agreed, testifying that responsible members of the industry are happy to do their part to address trafficking concerns.
“Our members are deeply committed to the communities they serve, and we are proud to support this bill today,” said Boone. “Human trafficking-prevention training is an important component of our industry’s ongoing work to end human trafficking.
“…While we know this is a critical issue that spans industries, we believe this bill is an important step in making sure human trafficking-prevention training is made available to all lodging employees in Washington state. We hope other industries will follow our example and ensure that their employees are also trained to identify and address evidence of human trafficking in their workplaces.”
The bill has until Friday, Feb. 7 to be approved by the Law and Justice Committee.
The full hearing on SB 6356 may be viewed here: https://www.tvw.org/watch/?clientID=9375922947&eventID=2020021022&startStreamAt=4263&stopStreamAt=5971&autoStartStream=true .
Individuals can learn the signs of human trafficking and help protect the vulnerable children and adults in their neighborhood by visiting: https://sharedhope.org/the-problem/what-is-sex-trafficking/.