Presentation to focus on human trafficking and child labor

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Photo of Chris Johnson.

Chris Johnson (Photo credit: Cooley Law School)

KALAMAZOO—Efforts in Michigan and by the national legal community to help stop human trafficking and child labor will be the focus of a Wednesday, Feb. 26, presentation at Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business.

Speaking at 2 p.m. in 2000 Schneider Hall will be Chris Johnson, a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, the Michigan Attorney General's Human Trafficking Commission, and the reporter and chief drafter of the American Bar Association Model Business and Supplier Policies on Labor Trafficking and Child Labor. He will talk about how the elimination of labor trafficking and child labor is smart business.

The presentation is free and open to the public. Complimentary parking is available in the nearby Fetzer Center parking lot.

The policies Johnson helped draft and the model principles that are part of those policies were recently overwhelmingly adopted by the American Bar Association House of Delegates, together with a resolution urging businesses to adopt and implement their own business and supplier policies on labor trafficking and child labor that are consistent with those principles.

About the talk

Johnson will address the social injustice experienced by those who are trafficked or subjected to child labor and the societal responsibility to ensure that human dignity is protected. He will also explore companies' concerns that labor trafficking is part of a "race to the bottom," in which some firms feel they must do everything their competitors do, even if illegal or unethical, in order to reap the largest profit and remain competitive. Further, Johnson will address how exploited workers create instability in the supply chain of a business, leading to business concerns such as:

  • Increased government regulation or enforcement of existing laws,
  • Worker unrest leading to work stoppage,
  • Litigation,
  • Inability to grow market share with socially conscious consumers and possible consumer boycott, and the
  • Inability to increase or maintain stock price with socially conscious shareholders or investors.

About the speakers

Johnson, the retired vice president and general counsel of General Motors North America and an adjunct professor of law at Thomas Cooley Law School, will be joined in the presentation by his wife Rhonda Davenport Johnson, senior vice president and director of the loan center for Comerica Bank. Davenport Johnson is a WMU graduate, recipient of the WMU Outstanding Alumni Award in marketing and an active advocate to end human trafficking.

The Johnsons serve on the board of the Michigan Abolitionist Project, a Christian-based not-for-profit abolitionist organization that helps people use their talents to prevent and end modern slavery in Michigan and beyond.

"This is an opportunity for students and members of the business community to learn more about the serious issue of human trafficking, and particularly its connection to the labor market and business practices," says Dr. Tim Palmer, professor of management and director of the Haworth College of Business Center for Sustainable Business Practices. "This issue is one that all business professionals need not only to be aware of but also be actively addressing within their organizations and communities. We are fortunate to have the Johnsons on campus as experts to lead this discussion."

For more information or to arrange media coverage, contact Stacey Markin, director of marketing for the Haworth College of Business, at stacey.markin@wmich.edu or (269) 387-6936.