About 40.3 million people are still modern slaves, including 24.9 million stuck in forced labour conditions and 15.4 million women and girls in forced marriages. For every 1,000 people around the globe, there are 5.4 modern slaves and 25% of modern slaves are children!
Of the 24.9 million people pushed to become forced laborers, 16 million people exploited in the private sector industries such as construction / agriculture/ domestic workers; 4.8 million people are forced into indecent exploitation, and around 4 million people are in forced labour as imposed by state authorities. 99% of victims in the commercial flesh trade, and 58% in other sectors, are helpless women and girls.
Federal lawmakers introduced a joint resolution under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, to prohibit slavery and forced servitude as punishment for crimes. As the nation faces issues of social inequality and racial injustice, American lawmakers are removing the slavery loophole from the United States Constitution. The practice of slavery formally ended in USA 155 years ago, when the 13th Amendment was ratified but failed to impact aspects of involuntary servitude. The Abolition Amendment, that was introduced by Democrats in the Senate and in the House recently, seeks to correct this by removing the “punishment” clause from the amendment, which allows prisoners to serve as free or cheap labour. Section 1 of the amendment states that neither involuntary servitude nor slavery, except as punishment for crimes where prisoners are duly convicted, can exist within the US, or in any place under their jurisdiction.
Unfinished work of President Lincoln
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat leads the fight to amend the great US Constitution, as part of the changes in justice and rooting out systemic racism, and ending the slavery loophole in the 13th Amendment is part of that challenge. Slavery is America’s original sin and exploits criminalizing colored Americans. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., who led the amendment effort in the House, seeks to finish the job that President Lincoln had started many years ago. No American should be forced into involuntary servitude, even the imprisoned. The measure has over a dozen co-sponsors but no Republicans have signed on. Senator Bernie Sanders is a co-sponsor. The estimated annual value of prison labour from U.S. prisons is $2 billion, and companies like AT&T, Whole Foods, Walmart and Victoria’s Secret use incarcerated labour for business operations.
The Uncounted Workforce
The Associated Press reported the push to chnage the 13th Amendment and notes that the reliance on using prison labour is expected to rehabilitate prisoners and teach new trade skills. It’s unlikely the effort will be passed, before the current session of Congress ends. Merkley hopes to re-introduce the legislation after the next session starts in January, with a new key sponsor from the House needed, as Rep. Clay faced defeat in the Democratic primaries earlier in 2020 by Cori Bush.
Approving the resolution
Article V of the Constitution allows changes in the founding document, only a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and Congress approve the resolution or by a constitutional convention with two-thirds of state legislatures voting in favour. Then, a third of the conventions or state legislatures must approve the change to law. None of the existing 27 amendments were adopted by the constitutional convention method.