Cooley to host symposium on human trafficking issue

By Debra Talcott
Legal News

Cooley Law School will kick off November with an important, day-long conference and symposium on the international problem of human trafficking.  The live event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in room L 48 on their Auburn Hills campus on Thursday, Nov. 1.  Simulcast presentations will be shown on their Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Lansing campuses.

The keynote speaker will be Ambassador Luis CdeBaca from the U.S. Department of State.  CdeBaca was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 to coordinate activities in the global fight against contemporary forms of slavery, and he serves as an adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Before joining the State Department, CdeBaca served in the Justice Department, where he earned the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award for his work as lead trial counsel in what was then the largest slavery prosecution in U.S. history.  That 2001 case involved the enslavement of 300 Vietnamese and Chinese workers in a garment factory in American Samoa.  At the Cooley symposium, CdeBaca, who is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, will address the topic of corporate responsibility in responding to slavery in corporate supply chains.

The upcoming event has been organized by Cooley’s Director of the Corporate Law and Finance Graduate Program, E. Christopher Johnson, who joined Cooley after his 2008 retirement from General Motors as North America Vice President and General Counsel.

Johnson became educated about the magnitude of the worldwide human trafficking issue during a visit he and his wife Rhonda made on a mission trip to Mumbai, India in 2011.  Since that time, Johnson has spearheaded Cooley Law School’s efforts to raise public awareness about the human trafficking and slavery issue, most recently as a proponent of corporate accountability to ensure that supply chains are not tainted by human trafficking.

Besides the keynote speaker and Johnson, others who will address the audience include Dr. Vanessa Bouche, director of the National Research Consortium on Commercial Sexual Exploitation; Rev. David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Dr. Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University; Dr. Shawn MacDonald of Verite; Janna Lipman of Anka Rising; Daniel Werner of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Julie Slagter of the Michigan Abolitionist Project; Andy Soper of the Manasseh Project; and Brigadier General Michael McDaniel of Cooley.

Anyone is welcome to attend this free event, which promises to be a sobering and eye-opening experience.

“Nearly 21 million individuals are caught in forced labor, slavery, or human trafficking globally,” said Johnson. “A significant number of these individuals work in the supply chains of many products from major corporations that we as consumers eat, wear, or use every day. This symposium will raise awareness of that fact and show everyone how to be a positive force in the fight against supply chain slavery and other forms of human trafficking by building coalitions among corporations, consumers, shareholders, investors, governmental and non-governmental organizations.  Slavery in any form is an affront to human dignity and the freedoms that we as Americans hold so dear. Whether it is here or halfway around the world, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is an affront to justice everywhere.’ That is certainly the case when that injustice touches us every day.”