The Decatur, Illinois-based Howard G. Buffett Foundation
has awarded Milwaukee-based nonprofit UMOS
and its Wisconsin Labor Trafficking Project partners $5.1 million in funding to fight labor trafficking. The three-year grant is to be administered statewide.
The “bottom-line mission” for the Wisconsin Labor Trafficking Project is to work with the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), advocates, and legal providers in “applying a well-coordinated approach to arresting and prosecuting traffickers while comprehensively supporting victims throughout the process,” said Lupe Martinez, president and CEO of UMOS.
Advocates and legal providers on the multi-disciplinary team include the Women’s Community Center, Inc.
, LOTUS Legal Clinic, Maria I. Lopez Immigration Law, and Mendez Law LLC.
“We have made positive strides over the years, and we are grateful to the Howard G. Buffet Foundation…and our partners to eradicate this most heinous crime,” Martinez added.
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation is one of the largest privately owned foundations in the country, citing a mission on its website to "improve the standard of living and quality of life, particularly for the world's most impoverished and marginalized populations."
The Wisconsin Labor Trafficking Project approach entails training law enforcement and prosecutors, educating community organizations and the public, and helping survivors of labor trafficking to navigate the justice system while providing for basic needs such as rent and transportation.
DCI will receive $1.4 million to conduct “victim-centered investigations” and prosecute labor traffickers in collaboration with federal and local law enforcement.
DWD will receive more than $200,000 to provide statewide outreach to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. The department will also share with the team data of certified camps, employers, contractors and authorized workers.
“No one should be exploited by others for financial gain,” said Amy Pechacek, secretary-designee of DWD. “We strive to make Wisconsin a fair and just place for all people to live and work.”
Additionally, the Women’s Community Center will receive more than $280,000 to continue to identify and support vulnerable targeted populations.
“Taking a multi-disciplinary approach makes efforts to combat labor trafficking more effective,” said state Attorney General Josh Kaul at a press conference Thursday. “This grant increases the resources available to support victims and fight this serious crime.”