Spokane Valley senator reminds public that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness month
This week Sen. Mike Padden introduced a bill to help end the sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults that occurs at hotels and motels in cities across Washington. The Spokane Valley Republican’s announcement of the bill coincided with his reminder to all Washingtonians that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Senate Bill 6356 would require hotels to provide annual training to their employees on identifying human-trafficking situations, and to post signage regarding human-trafficking awareness. Padden received input from the lodging and hospitality industries in drafting the legislation and said many are welcoming guidance in addressing trafficking at their properties.
“We know that hotels and motels are often the scene of the crime for sex trafficking, knowingly or not, due to ease of access, anonymity and ability to pay in cash,” said Padden, who serves as the Republican leader on the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “When criminals use hotels as a venue for sex trafficking or forced labor, we have an obligation to not turn a blind eye.
“My bill will help those responsible companies take a proactive approach to fighting human trafficking by training their staff and providing them with the tools to recognize sex or labor trafficking that may be occurring and respond in a safe and appropriate way.”
Padden pointed out that key players in the industry have been significant partners in trying to address the human-trafficking crisis. In 2017, the third largest hotel chain in the world rolled out a required human-trafficking awareness training program for the 700,000 employees among its 7,000-plus locations. It also launched a program with the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery to prepare trafficking survivors for careers in the hospitality industry.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. It was designated as such by former President Obama in 2010, and later redeclared by President Trump in December 2017.
“It is a time for us all to remember those experiencing enslavement and recommit ourselves to ending the labor and sexual exploitation of millions of people around the world and here at home,” Padden said.
“This is an important issue for me and many of my colleagues. Senate Republicans are committed to doing everything we can to raise awareness, protect victims and go after exploiters.”
SB 6356 has been referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee. It also has a companion bill, HB 2320, which has been introduced by Rep. Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, and is scheduled for a Jan. 22 vote by the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Business.
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/.