Contemporary Abolitionists of the Month: Sindhu Kavinamannil and Sam McCahon

The fight to end slavery is rooted in history and extends until today. Each month we will profile some of the brave men and women, both contemporary and historical, who have fought to eradicate slavery. Our contemporary abolitionists of the month are Sindhu Kavinamannil and Sam McCahon.

Sindhu Kavinamannil and Sam McCahon have been partnering for years to fight labor trafficking of South Asian workers employed by United States contractors in the Middle East.

A certified Fraud Examiner from the Defense Acquisition University in the United States. Kavinamannil has worked with sex trafficking victims in India and forced labor victims in the garment industry and has fought labor trafficking networks from India to the Middle East. She has extensive experience in establishing and maintaining compliance programs in India, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United States. Kavinamannil became aware of labor violations while serving as the Chief Compliance Officer of PriceWaterhouseCoopers Logistics in the Middle East.  There she witnessed cases of recurring labor law violations by subcontracting firms working with U.S. companies. Forced labor often involves the confiscation of travel documents, excessive working hours, and withholding of promised salaries. Furthermore, these deceptive labor practices are often layered on deplorable living conditions and physical and verbal abuse. Armed with her compliance background and multi-linguistic skill, Kavinamannil exposed an often hidden crime.

McCahon attained his law degree from Drury University while serving in the U.S. Army. He has 26 years of experience as a lawyer, having served roles in government, in-house corporate counsel, and private practice and has on the ground experience on government contracting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. While serving, McCahon became aware of labor trafficking occurring under U.S. government contracts in combat areas. He has since become a recognized expert on the identification, assessment, and prosecution of human trafficking enterprises and individuals.  He has served as a frequent consultant to governments and corporations, both in the United States and abroad, on measures necessary to abolish the practice. McCahon has served as a consultant and advisor to the U.S. Congress, Department of State, Department of Defense and the White House concerning human trafficking abolition strategies.

Kavinamannil and McCahon have developed compliance programs with the kinds of internal controls need to prevent human trafficking.  On behalf of corporate clients, they have conducted internal investigations and provided recommendations for corrective actions. They have worked with the U.S. Congress to develop legislation to hold U.S. companies liable for their Middle Eastern contractors that engage in forced labor. They have also worked with the White House on an executive order prohibiting human trafficking in U.S. government contracts and holding contractors responsible for deceptive labor practices.

Businesses should follow Kavinamannil and McCahon’s example and clean up their supply chains in order to disrupt the business of trafficking, decrease its profitability, and hold perpetrators accountable.

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Published on May 29, 2015

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