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Julia Ormond: Human Trafficking Hits Home

Actress Julia Ormond told California lawmakers on Tuesday that corporations should do more to combat slavery and human trafficking, a largely unrecognized problem she said affects victims worldwide.

"The reality, sadly, comes not just closer to home but right into my home. Experts estimate there are at least 27 million slaves in the world today, with the vast majority in agriculture and mining," Ormond told members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

She spoke in support of a bill that would require large retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to trace the supply chains of the products they sell. The goal is to make sure that no forced labor was involved.

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"Slavery globally touches not only my heart, but quite probably my table, my car, my clothing," Ormond said. "Corporations who know their supply chain and know how it works can offer up the solutions."

The 43-year-old British actress, who co-starred with Harrison Ford in 1995's "Sabrina" and had major roles in "Legends of the Fall" and "First Knight," helped launch an international anti-trafficking program last year.

She has been a United Nations goodwill ambassador since 2005 and is a founder of the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking.

The legislative committee sent the bill to the full Senate on a 3-2, party-line vote. Republicans voted against it but did not speak in opposition.

California Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Denise Davis said business groups have not taken a position on the bill by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

It would prompt companies to use their economic leverage to prevent human rights abuses by their suppliers. They also would have to make public their anti-slavery policies.

"We're trying to create awareness, public education and a societal commitment to end slavery and human trafficking," Steinberg said.

His bill exempts companies that have less than $2 million in annual sales.

Steinberg cited studies showing that victims often are forced to work in the sex trade, as domestic servants, at hotels or farms in addition to manufacturing. A 2005 U.S. Department of Justice study estimated that 80 percent are women and half are minors.
His bill has to pass the Senate and the state Assembly before it can be sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

By Don Thompson