February 04, 2019 Public Contract Law Journal

Utilizing Supply Chain Transparency Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons: A Comparative Analysis of the U.S. and Swedish Systems

by Tara Woods

Tara Woods (twoods@law.gwu.edu) is a J.D. candidate at The George Washington University Law School and is a member of the Public Contract Law Journal.

I.  Introduction

In October 2007, Vinnie Tuivaga, a Fijian national, boarded a flight for Dubai.1 Chasing the promise of a significant salary increase, Ms. Tuivaga was unaware that she had been misled about her true final destination.2 Ms. Tuivaga and the ten other women she traveled with expected to begin working as beauticians at a luxury hotel in the United Arab Emirates shortly after landing in Dubai.3 Instead they received body armor and training on surviving rocket attacks, before being transported to various U.S. military bases throughout Iraq.4 Despite being employed by a U.S. government subcontractor, Vinnie found herself working twelve hours a day, seven days a week for a measly salary of $350 per month.5 She had initially been promised a monthly salary between $1,500 and $3,800.6 The Army and Air Force Exchange Service inspected Vinnie’s working situation on the tip of a private contractor, but determined it was not exploitative because she had been informed of the true nature of her job — after arriving in Dubai.7 Fortunately, in April 2008, Vinnie was allowed to return to Fiji.8 Vinnie’s story is an example of how complex supply chains in government contracts can lead to fraud and human rights abuses.

More than a decade later, despite the United States’ professed longstanding zero tolerance policy on trafficking in persons, the horrors faced by Vinnie have not been eradicated from U.S. public procurement. This is because the United States’ regulatory structure around supply chain management still does not properly control for trafficking in persons. This Note analyzes how supply chain transparency measures can serve as an effective tool for combating trafficking in persons and argues for the adoption of additional policies based on Sweden’s model. First, this Note defines trafficking in persons and supply chains. Second, it analyzes the efforts and challenges of combating trafficking in persons in United States public procurement supply chains. Finally, this Note provides an overview of the Swedish public procurement system and advocates for the adoption of specific policies. Sweden serves as a particularly effective country for comparison because its public procurement system has complex and globalized supply chains, which present many of the same risks as the United States.9

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