This week we celebrate the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech. As we reflect and look ahead to the future, our past may not be too far behind us. With the recent discovery of a modern day slave ring in certain parts of America, this reincarnation is an example of a 21st century plantation.
Reports from ABC, the New York Times, and other sources reveal authorities have seized several 7-Eleven stores in the states of New York and Virginia. These stores have managed to import illegal/undocumented workers from Pakistan and the Philippines, and have forced them to work sometimes over 100 hours a week with very little pay while living in destitute housing conditions. This has reportedly been taking place since 2000. These franchises scored soaring profits and managed to gross $182 million in revenue by effectively simulating a modern day plantation scheme. The system worked because the wages they earned primarily went to paying the rent for the boarding houses.
How did they get away with it for so long? The individuals involved managed to steal the identities of at least 18 Americans, which included deceased persons and small children. As Secret and Rashaum from the New York Times note:
"7-Eleven Inc., which has more than 7,600 stores in the United States, did not have safeguards in place to protect its payroll system from employee fraud, the authorities said. For example, two immigrant employees, one in New York and one in Virginia, used the same Social Security number to get paid."
Prosecutors have broadened the investigation to over 40 stores and have charged over 50 individuals associated with the case. While not entirely innocent, the undocumented workers will most likely be deported back to their home countries once trials and sentencing get underway.
This story is yet another example of the Western world trying to solve global crises while they are still occurring on their own soil. Is this the slave trade of the 21st century?