Labor Trafficking: A Play

Human Trafficking: A Play on Labor Exploitation in the Agricultural Sector

By: Izzy Ullmann


Overseer: What are you doing in bed, you lazy shit? Get to work. You think this is preschool– you can just take a little nappie? This is the real world. Get on it.

Boy: I’m sorry, sir, but I am very sick. I have been barfing all night and am extremely nauseous… I think I just need the day to sleep it off.

 Overseer: Day to sleep it off? Who do you think you are? The queen of England? Get out of bed. I’m not asking.

 Boy: Sir, I don’t mean to contradict you, but I really don’t think I can work today. I can barely stand to go to the bathroom.

 Overseer: Well it’s your call. Either you work today, or you don’t work at all. If I don’t see you out in the fields in five minutes, don’t even think about coming to them again. (stomps out)

 Boy: (aside) I’ve been working on this tomato plantation for a year and a half now. When I was twelve, I was working out on a tobacco plantation in Cuba. My parents had sent me to work there, practically selling me off to the owner, because they thought I would have a better life working for him then living the life of poverty I had grown up with. On the contrary, my life on the plantation was grueling– I worked to the point of fatigue every day and then spent the nights cleaning his house and feeding his children. When this guy came to the farm one day, offering me a job on a tomato plantation in Florida, I grabbed at it. He said he’d pay me more than I was being paid (which really wasn’t saying much, cuz I only got paid a few cents every few months on the tobacco plantation). I needed money. I needed an escape. So I went with him. But then he made all of these false promises:

 Trafficker: You’ll have to give me your passport so that I can arrange for your travels. I’ll give it back to you as soon as we get to the US.

 Boy: (aside) Well, I gave him my passport. It’s been a year and a half. I still haven’t gotten back my passport. Once we got to the US, I realized I was indebted to him

 Trafficker: Ok boy… I paid for your transportation, your travel documents, everything… you owe me a couple thousand. So you’re going to have to work off that amount for the first few months. Once you work off your debt, you’ll start getting paid.

 Boy: (aside) But it hasn’t worked that way. While I was working off my debt, it grew instead of shrank! Everything I do costs me money that I don’t have. He’s made me live in the “migrant housing” camp,  a cramped, dirty, roach- infested poor excuse for a thing… but even that ain’t free. Shit, nothing’s free! I take a shower and the money for the water is added to my tab. I eat a meal and that’s added too. Every time I need clothing or supplies or whatever, I am charged for it… There is this never-ending list of money I owe and I can’t work fast enough to keep up with it.

 So what my overseer is doing today, making threats about firing me… all the time. Whenever I do anything against his wishes, he just tells me I can stop coming to work. But I can’t do that man! I’m still in debt. So today, I drag myself out of bed, my stomach sloshing and groaning. It’s my only option. Either this or it’s on the streets for me.

Overseer: Someone decided to wake up! Now grab that plow and start using it.

 Boy: (aside) I work and work. I work for hours. I barf through it all, completely unable to keep it down. At one point, I sit down after a particularly violent hurl. Bent in half, I touch my head to the ground, trying to stop the spinning. My overseer comes up behind me and kicks me in the ass. He then pulls me aside.

 Overseer: You think you can stop on the job? You have such nerve you little prick. You think my time is worthless. You think this is some game. We have a business to run boy. Every second you spend wasting my time, is one less dollar in my pocket.

 Boy: (aside) And then he rapes me. Right there in the field. I howl but no one comes running. I bleed right onto that tomato field, and no one mops it up. And you can guess what he does next. He sends me right back to work. And I have no choice but to plow that damn field.

 When it’s finally dinner time, I stand in line with the other boys, completely starved. I’ve been denied a lunch break as punishment for my “tardiness” and can hardly stand up due to the hunger.

 Overseer: (scanning boys) (spots Boy and grabs him by his collar) Boy, you are going to be working tonight. The outhouse needs cleaning. And since you’ve been so disobedient today, you won’t get paid for it.

 Boy: Um sir… Yes, Sir.

 Boy (aside): I consider protesting. I really do. But what’s the point anymore? Getting paid overtime? What does that mean when you’re not really getting paid at all? When it comes down to it, I’ve just got to suck it up and work with what I’ve got. Without a passport, a single penny in my pocket, or any family within a 200 mile radius, I am quite literally stranded. So I hold onto a plow and my tears, trying to let neither of them falter.


Sex Trafficking: A Play

Human Trafficking: A Play on the Sexual Exploitation of Minors

By: Izzy Ullmann

 (Girl walks in the door)

Father: (aggressively) Where have you been?

Girl: Out with my friends.

Father: Doing what?

 Girl: Just hanging out at the mall, dad.

 Father: How am I supposed to know that’s what you were doing?! Dressed the way you are, you might as well have been at a strip club! Cover yourself up.

 Girl: (looks down at too- short dress) (aside) The only reason I am wearing the clothes that I am wearing is because my parents have refused to buy me anything new. This is the same dress that they bought me in 5th grade! That was years ago. But they say there’s not enough money for new clothes. Not enough money? There’s enough money for them to buy themselves those drugs that they keep hidden away in the closet. But not enough to buy me a dress that fits right?

 Girl: Dad, if only you’d buy me a new dress, I wouldn’t need to wear this one to the mall.

 Father: (voice raises) Who are you to tell me what to buy? I bought you this house and the food that you eat. Now leave me the hell alone!

 Girl: (aside) This has been going on for months, years. My parents only pay me any attention when they want to accuse me. Otherwise, I’m like some bug that’s washed up into the house. Well, today I walked away… ran away, I guess you can say. I have endured the pressure and the distrust and those scowling looks for too long. Every time I walk in the front door of my own home, I felt judged. My parents– they assume I have been out with the wrong boy or wearing the wrong clothes or whatever. I just can’t take it anymore. When I left, I didn’t know where I was going to go. I just wanted out.

 (walks down the street, looking around)

 Girl: I walked and walked. It got darker and I got more and more nervous cuz honestly, I had no idea where I was going. After a little while, I saw that a car was following me. Some guy.. I don’t know. Who knew what he wanted… After a couple blocks, he pulled up along beside me. He stuck his head out the window. He was..  I don’t know. 28, 29. But pretty cute.

 Man: Hey baby. Someone’s lookin fine tonight. Whatchu doin walking out here all by yourself? A pretty girl like you should be inside! Look at those sparklin eyes! Why do they look so sad?

 Girl: (aside) Man it felt good to be noticed. He called me pretty. He said I looked fine. He noticed my eyes! Do you know how long its been since anyone’s commented on my eyes? Too long, that’s forsure. So I told him. I just let it all out.

 (to Man): I ran away from home. I can’t handle the rents anymore, you know? Always on my back about everything… I was outta there.

 Man: Aww suga, that’s too bad. How about you come inside and I’ll go get you an ice cream. Ice cream can always cheer a person up!

 Girl: (aside) I had nowhere to go and nothing better to do, so I got in that car and we drove to Dairy Queen. We ate ice cream and talked for hours. He was so nice. He told me I was beautiful and special. He told me I didn’t need my parents– that I could be my own person. It felt amazing. Especially cuz I was only 13. I liked getting all this attention from an older guy. I felt sexy, you know?

 Girl: That night, I stayed at his place. He gave me my own room and it was great. Every day, he would take me to do things. We would see movies and go bowling and stuff… He told me he loved me. He held me in his arms. He kissed me. After a couple weeks, we had sex. It hurt a bit but I thought it would make him love me even more. And it seemed to. I stopped having time to see my friends and I sure didn’t see a peep of my family. But that was fine. I liked being with him. He was so nice to me. I hadn’t felt this much attention in years. I couldn’t get enough of it. But then, things started to change a little.

 Man: Baby, I need help paying the rent. You sit on your ass all day and don’t bring in any money. You gotta get out there and start makin some dough or else we’ll be out on the streets, beggin for food. Tonight, you gotta put on this dress (hands shorts, sparkly dress) and you’re going to get out on the street and get yourself some customers.

 Girl: (in shock) Wh-wh-what kind of customers?

 Man: (sneers) You know exactly what kind of customers I’m talking about. And don’t be shy about it. I’m expecting $200 by tomorrow morning.

 Girl: No! I’m not going to be a prostitute for you! That’s sick!

 Man: (slaps girl) You’re going to do what I tell you. I’ve given you a home. I’ve fed you. I’ve taken care of you. The least you can do is make us some money.

 Girl: (aside) Well, when he put it like that, how could I say no? I was indebted to him… It was true. I mean, he had taken care of me. And I guess we did need the money, right? But I still tried to protest…

 Girl: NO! You can’t tell me what to do! This is my body!

 Man: No.. that’s where you have it wrong. This. right here. This is MY body.

 Girl: (aside) And he raped me. He threw me down and raped me.

 Man: (when he’s done) Now put on this dress. And go outside. And make yourself useful. I don’t want to see your face until the morning. And if there is no money in your purse, don’t even think about coming back.

 Girl: (aside) In shock, I walked outside. I couldn’t believe what was happening. This didn’t really feel right, but I couldn’t let him down. I had to impress him. I didn’t want him to hate me. I loved him. I stood by those cars driving by in that teeny pink dress and stared at them, open mouthed, no clue what to do. And the whole time, I could feel him standing a couple feet behind me, watching me. An hour passed like that.

 Man: (stomps up to her) Girl, what you think you’re doin? You gotta wave at them. Do a little shimmy. Show em a little somethin’ somethin’. How you think you gonna get anyone like this?

 Girl: (nervously shimmies boobs and gives a weak wave… a car pulls up)

 Guy: (leans out window) How much?

 Girl: (looks terrified, and turns to Man questioningly)

 Man: A hundred.

 Girl: (stammering) A hundred.

 Guy: Get in. (drives away with girl)

 Girl: (aside) It continued like that for about a year. I struggled for a while, fighting back when he would try to teach me a new technique or whatever. Sometimes he would beat me. Real hard. I have bruises all over my stomach, my arms, my neck. Sometimes he would rape me. Sometimes he would have his buddies over and they would all rape me. None of it felt real. But it all felt real. I didn’t like it. But I didn’t really have another choice. Even if I ran away, where would I go? Where COULD I go? I had no money– that all went to him. No way in hell my family would take me back! And I hadn’t talked to a friend in over a year… I was stuck.