OLYMPIA – Protections for victims of human trafficking will be strengthened under a bill introduced by Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle. The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously and was recently signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“This is a simple bill that has very important ramifications,” Hasegawa said. “When we hear about human trafficking, we often think that only means sex trafficking – but our state and nation have a terrible problem with labor trafficking as well. This bill expands the definition of human trafficking to include ‘human labor trafficking,’ which will allow us to help people who have been trafficked, who have had their rights and freedom stripped away, and been forced to work in inhumane conditions for little or no pay. They are essentially modern day slaves in America.”

Under Senate Bill 5342, five new definitions under the state human trafficking chapter will be added, including “forced labor” and “work or service.”

An international non-governmental organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, including 68 percent who are trapped in forced labor. Roughly 26 percent of the nearly 21 million are children and 55 percent are women and girls.

Due in part to our international border with Canada, dependency on agricultural workers and as a major port of entry to the U.S. from foreign countries, Washington state has a significant human trafficking problem, but is also one of the leaders in tackling the problem through legislation like this bill.

To watch the bill vote, please click here (and scroll to 19:25).