On March 28th, the Acton Institute hosted an important event for our local community. Hidden No More: Exposing Human Trafficking in West Michigan brought together representatives from Michigan’s state government and local community activists to shine a light on the very real and growing problem of human trafficking in West Michigan (and beyond). The event was organized by Acton’s own Elise Hilton (who as written extensively on the subject of human trafficking here on the PowerBog), and featured a panel consisting of Chief Deputy Attorney General Carol Isaacs, who worked with Attorney General Bill Schuette to produce Michigan’s recent report on the subject; State Senator Judy Emmons, the Michigan Legislature’s leading voice on Human Trafficking; human trafficking survivor and founder of Sacred Beginnings Leslie King; Andy Soper of the Manassah Project at Wedgewood Christian Services; and Becky McDonald of Women At Risk International. You can view a short highlight reel from the event below; the full presentation is available here.
Vednita Carter wants this to be perfectly clear: human beings are not for sale. It’s a battle, she says, one where she is on the front lines.
Carter used to be a prostitute. But don’t think of a woman wearing outrageous outfits, standing on a street corner. No, think sex trafficking.
At 18, she was hoping to make money for college when she responded to an advertisement for “dancers.” At first, she danced fully clothed, but her bosses and then-boyfriend soon pressured her into stripping and, eventually, prostitution.
Carter eventually left the streets, with the help of a friend. She realized, though, that many women in the same situation had no one to help, so she created Breaking Free, a non-profit that helps sex trafficking victims over the age of 16 get off the streets and re-build their lives. Breaking Free provides rehab services for those with addictions, help with education and job skills, and an intensive 14-week course called “Sisters of Survival.” (more…)
Acton Communications Specialist Elise Hilton joined host Shelly Irwin today on the WGVU Morning Show in Grand Rapids, Michigan to discuss Acton’s upcoming moderated panel discussion on the issue of human trafficking, Hidden No More: Exposing Human Trafficking in West Michigan. Take a listen to the interview via the audio player below, make sure to listen to the podcast on the topic here, and if you’re able, register for the event that takes place on March 28th right here at the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium.
The latest edition of Radio Free Acton takes a look at the awful practice of human trafficking in advance of Acton’s upcoming moderated panel discussion on the issue, Hidden No More: Exposing Human Trafficking in West Michigan. Acton Director of Communications John Couretas speaks with Elise Hilton, whose name you’ll recognize from our blog, and who has authored a great many posts drawing attention to just this topic.
Give the podcast a listen via the audio player below, and be sure to register for the March 28th panel discussion as well
West Michigan is welcoming a new researcher to the area, and Dr. Stefan Jovinge says that culture matters a great deal for incubating innovation. Jovinge, previously of Lund University in Sweden, is one of the world’s foremost scientists investigating the ability of cardiac cells to repair themselves, and he’s joining the Van Andel Institute and at the Spectrum Health Frederik Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute in Grand Rapids.
As Sue Thorns reports, the entrepreneurial culture of West Michigan played a big part in motivating Jovinge’s move. “There is an entrepreneurship and philanthropy here that is astonishing,” he said. “You who live here probably don’t understand this because you think this is normal. But you don’t find it everywhere.”
When I moved to west Michigan, one of the things that struck me the most were distinct cultural differences between the different sides of the state. While I was pursuing a master’s degree at Calvin Theological Seminary, I worked for a while in the receiving department at Bissell, Inc. I remember being surprised, nay, shocked, that a manufacturer like Bissell was not a union shop. (All those jobs are somewhere else now, in any case.)
Before attending Michigan State as an undergrad, I had lived in Detroit, and although I never had a union job myself, the cultural expectations of organized labor were (and still are) deeply ingrained on the east side of the state. My dad is a longtime editor at a suburban newspaper, and one of the reasons he still has a job amid the economic downturn and the upheavals facing that industry is his membership in the guild.
But things really are different on this side of the state. That’s one reason why the protests taking place today in Lansing, the centrally-located state capital, are symbolic of two sides of the state, in many ways divided by culture, economy, and politics. As to the latter, consider some statewide candidates for public office in recent memory that haven’t done so well when trying to move beyond west Michigan, including Pete Hoekstra, Dick DeVos, Dick Posthumus. The fight over Right to Work legislation in Michigan is, in this way, a tale of two Michigans.
It is also a tale about two paths forward for Michigan, though. On the one side is the state’s historic identification with Big Labor and the Big Three. On the other side is a Michigan that embraces enterprising innovation and entrepreneurial competition.
The Wall Street Journal editorialized yesterday on this topic (HT: Ross Emmett), and captures the essence of the choice facing Michigan: “Unions loathe right to work because they know that many workers would rather not join a union.”
I think that the right to organize and therefore unions are fundamental to flourishing societies. But what concerns me is that the argument against Right to Work is not about this fundamental right to organize, but rather about protecting the entrenched and embedded political interests of a particular kind of union.
There is a world of difference between voluntary union membership and mandatory, government-enforced, union membership. If the former is akin to something like the freedom of religion, then the latter is more like the government establishment of a particular religion or church. What we need is the separation of Union and State in the way that we have historically had free churches. We need to disestablish labor in the same way that we have disestablished religion in America, while simultaneously protecting the right to organize and join a union as well as the right to worship and express our religious convictions.