San Francisco Supervisor Carmen Chu endorsed the USF Erasmus Community's efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking and described her proposal to prevent brothels from operating as massage parlors.
Pointing a finger at the telltale signs of human trafficking associated with the sex trade, agricultural labor, and sweat shops uncovered in their research, students at the University of San Francisco want San Francisco’s elected officials and residents to pursue new laws and change their habits to rid the city of this underground industry.
The group of students – part of USF’s Erasmus Community live, study, and work in collaboration with the Not For Sale Campaign to combat modern day slavery – strongly endorse a recent measure by San Francisco Supervisor Carmen Chu to stop brothels from operating as city-licensed massage parlors.
The Not For Sale Campaign has won growing support from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Chu and San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, the latter two of whom appeared at an Erasmus news conference April 30 at USF to draw attention to their efforts to combat slavery. After learning about the prevalence of human trafficking, Affeldt decided to lend his support to the Not For Sale Campaign by contributing $5,000, plus another $100 for every strikeout he records this season.
An estimated 27 million people worldwide live in slavery, thousands of them in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to David Batstone, USF professor of theology and religion and Not For Sale Campaign founder.
“We are here today to increase the public’s awareness and knowledge that human trafficking does exist today,” said Erika Myszynski, a sophomore international studies major.
Myszynski and the other Erasmus students speaking at the press conference addressed the prevalence of human trafficking and slavery in industries that touch many Bay Area residents’ lives, among them sex trade, garment manufacturing, chocolate production, and agricultural fieldwork.
Highlighting part of their research into San Francisco massage parlors, Erasmus zeroed in on two particular establishments, investigating their advertising (including in the “sensual massage” section of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and “erotic services” section of Craigslist.org), the validity of their business licenses, and any health department violations. The students concluded several weeks of research with an overnight stakeout of one of the massage parlors, revealing that several city and health department regulations were violated, including being open all night and employing masseuses who wore lingerie beneath uniform coats.
“After surveying this massage parlor for 24 hours, only one woman left the establishment!” said Kaitlin Locascio, also a sophomore international studies major at USF and the current vice president of Erasmus. “This is a very strong indicator that these women are not free to leave, and that they are living inside this establishment.”
Erasmus students called for increased vigilance by San Francisco officials and the public to report suspicious massage parlors and buy fair trade certified products, which guarantee that strict economic, social, and environmental criteria are met in the production and trade of a product.
“San Francisco is one of the biggest ports for human trafficking in the world, and we, as a city, need to pay attention to the signs around us,” Locascio said. “We need to support (officials like Supervisor Chu) and other informed city leaders so that they can create effective change, and so that they may help us to live differently and stop paying for slavery!”