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Salt Lake Chamber’s Derek Miller joins national task force fighting human trafficking

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Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance, speaks at the daily COVID-19 media briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — One of Utah’s top business leaders is joining the fight against human exploitation.

This week, Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Derek Miller was appointed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Task Force to Eradicate Human Trafficking. The assignment highlights a nationwide effort by business and industry to prioritize ongoing efforts in the fight for freedom for those impacted by the illegal practice of human trafficking, he said.

“There’s not always really obvious connection between human trafficking and business,” Miller said. “Really, the connection, our focus, is on making sure that businesses understand best practices in their supply chain, meaning sometimes there’s not transparency between where a business may be getting its products and where it may be getting their goods manufactured. Unfortunately, the reality is that sometimes products are made with forced labor, sometimes even child labor.”

He said human trafficking is frequently thought of in terms of the sex trade or forced prostitution, but there’s an element of human trafficking that relates to forced labor and that is where the U.S. Chamber is involved.

The outgoing Trump administration designated the month of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month leading up to National Freedom Day on Feb. 1.

Miller said the pandemic brought many things to a halt, but it did not stop the scourge of human trafficking, which still requires a concerted effort by people everywhere to ensure “we end this blight on humanity.”

“As the voice of business, the Chamber can play a part in this important effort. We represent businesses who care deeply, as I do, about working to eliminate all forms of slavery and to combat those elements in societies that would subjugate another person for criminal enterprise, or for any reason,” he said. ”Human trafficking is an illicit but active business, and we must unite as a business community to educate, detect, empower and support efforts to bring it to an end.

“I pledge to do my part to help these efforts and to work with leaders throughout the community,” Miller added. “Fortunately, toward this end, Utah has taken a leadership role in the fight.”  

Employers must become more aware of the immorality and illegality of forced labor, especially in their supply chains, he said. Slave labor rightfully brings legal and reputational consequences, and it benefits any company to be aware of the practice, he said.

Among the key indicators of possible forced labor include document fraud, large amounts of debt and threats of intimidation or deportation toward vulnerable people.

“We welcome the news that Derek Miller has formally joined the fight to end human trafficking with his appointment last month to the U.S. Chamber Task Force,” said Sam Malouf, president of the Logan-based anti-trafficking nonprofit Malouf Foundation, which he and his wife founded in 2016. “Kacie and I have made this our mission and firmly believe that the more leaders we have like Derek, who can multiply business efforts around this issue and raise public awareness, the closer we come to ending human trafficking. The road remains steep, but sometimes the most worthy goals are an uphill climb.”

Missy Larsen, vice president of community impact for Utah County-based doTerra, which operates the Healing Hands Foundation, said the company is committed to helping to eliminate human exploitation in all forms, supporting the efforts of business leaders and others locally as well as nationally.

“There are a number of companies that do see this as a critical issue and they do it for the good of society,” she said. “The most important thing to understand is that these large-scale problems cannot be solved by one element of society. Government can’t solve it alone, business can’t solve it alone, nonprofits can’t solve it alone.”

The task force is organized around five guiding principles for the business community: involving top executives in identifying risky business partners and locations; measuring and monitoring the problem and solutions; working with suppliers and their employees to ensure compliance; examining production planning and recruitment practices; and taking action in the community.

These principles provide an organizing framework to raise public awareness, convene and enlist the broader community, and secure funding to combat this multilayered problem, a news release stated. Miller’s appointment and social advocacy drew support from one of the newest members of the state’s congressional delegation.

“Derek Miller will be an invaluable asset to the U.S. Chamber in the fight to effectively eradicate human trafficking,” said Republican Rep. Burgess Owens, of Utah’s 4th Congressional District. “This form of modern-day slavery is an atrocity, and I stand ready to assist in developing permanent solutions that put an end to this global crisis once and for all.”