2018 Year in Review: Growing Momentum in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

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2018 Year in Review: Growing Momentum in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

By Michael Pinchera | Dec 18, 2018

After hearing Sister Kathleen Bryant, a Religious Sister of Charity, speak about the insidious world of human trafficking and how it intersects with myriad pieces of the meeting professional’s business life, MPI President and CEO Paul Van Deventer was inspired and pledged the association would provide resources to help spread awareness—ways to identify signs of trafficking and how meeting pros can help most effectively. In December 2017, Sister Bryant spoke at MPI’s All Team Summit in order to bring clarity and understanding of human trafficking to the association’s staff.

Immediately following that, The Meeting Professional began publishing supporting material—created by MPI members, industry vets and an award-winning writing team—each and every month of 2018. This endeavor included personal tales from meeting professionals and recommendations to help the people impacted by human trafficking and to fight the criminals—and the stories reveal the diverse ways in which you and your peers have encountered trafficking.


“Stepping Up”

Sister Kathleen Bryant, an important impetus for MPI’s human trafficking-awareness education, explains there’s growing momentum to join the fight within the hospitality industry.

“In the early days when we tried to get them to sign on there was this reluctance: ‘These ugly things don’t happen here. We don’t want to associate the name of our hotel with human trafficking,’” she says. “The shift I’ve seen is businesses are now motivated by the need to combat those practices [because] it can affect their reputation and revenue.”


Taking a Stand

David Peckinpaugh (MPI Heartland Chapter) of Maritz Global Events is driven to act when he learns about trafficking that is too close to home.


“Making Allies, Not Adversaries”

A grassroots effort to combat trafficking started seven years ago in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with a group called Love 146 that has since reached out to more than 500 hotels and motels throughout the U.S.

“In our experience people in the hospitality industry have generally been really passionate and really helpful,” says Matthew Miller, director of development and mobilization for Love 146.

Email info@love146.org to request free educational resources.


Inspiring Action

Pastor Jeff Keith and his wife travelled to India to donate a freshwater well, but learned about a local red light district and soon joined the fight against human trafficking. In 2012, he founded Bend, Ore-based Guardian Group, a nonprofit that fights sex trafficking.

“We identified pretty quickly the hotspot for this is the hotel industry,” he says. “Hotels are not asking for it. They’re trying to run a business.”


“The Moment I Most Regret”

Meeting professional Matt Judge believes he let an opportunity to disrupt a possible trafficking situation slip by, and encourages the rest of us to learn from this mistake.

“When you see something, whether on the interstate or at the conference hotel, and that voice in your head sounds the alarm, do something. Fast,” he says. “You may only have a few seconds.”


“‘It is Happening Around the Corner’”

Toronto-based Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking, founded by Sandy Biback, owner of Imagination+Meeting Planners Inc., is made up of about 30 industry professionals—most of whom are meeting planners. The all-volunteer group works to raise awareness among planners, hoteliers, restaurant owners and others involved in the field. One of the group’s meetings this year had more than 90 attendees—more than twice the predicted number.


“Guardian Angels”

Dawn Rasmussen (MPI Oregon Chapter), a resume writer and career management coach, cited the training she received from MPI, an ECPAT-USA partner, as the vehicle that gave her the confidence to intervene in a recent situation with a homeless youth that could have turned into a trafficking scenario.

Visit ECPAT-USA to learn more about how your company can train associates to help end child sex trafficking and empower people to become leaders and advocates in their community.


Digital Transactions Tell the Story

When human traffickers check into a hotel, the last thing they want is for the staff to notice them. But thanks to efforts by the banking and credit card industries, it’s getting harder for them to keep a low profile.

“When you put it all together, it points strongly to a trafficker,” says Peter Warrack, chief compliance officer at Bitfinex.


A Duty to Deter

Hotels and other third parties could be implicated in crimes if they should have known about human trafficking on their premises or did know and ignored it, under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, according to William M. Sullivan Jr., a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.


What if I Was Right?”

As awareness of human trafficking grows, meeting professionals must trust their instincts.

“As we, within the hospitality industry, continue to be better educated on the topic of human trafficking, there will be more stories like mine,” says Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, HMCC (MPI At Large), referring to a possible trafficking incident she encountered on a flight. “I only hope that my message is loud and clear: What if you are right?”


“Raising Awareness”

The establishment of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons has led to more progress in an important global fight. For 2018, the United Nations focused World Day on “responding to the trafficking of children and young people.” Many groups also used the day to raise awareness of efforts they are working on. The European Union, for example, highlighted the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings and to promote EU Anti-Trafficking Day (Oct. 18).

For additional material on the confluence of human trafficking and the meeting and event industry—and how you can help—visit www.mpi.org/blog.



Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera, MPI's managing editor, is an award-winning writer and editor as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997.