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Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) is a Los Angeles-based anti-human trafficking organization. Through legal, social, and advocacy services, CAST helps rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking, raises awareness, and affects legislation and public policy surrounding human trafficking.
CAST was founded in 1998 as a response to the landmark El Monte sweatshop case of 1995, in which 72 Thai immigrants were forced to work in slave-like conditions for 18-hours a day, while locked-up in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte. The victims were paid about 69 cents an hour, and charged exorbitant amounts for basic necessities, ensuring they would never be able to pay off their original debt to their traffickers, and remain under their control. The case garnered national press coverage, and brought the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking into the mainstream media. In 1997, Dr. Kathryn McMahon, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, started the Trafficked Women Project. This grew into CAST, which officially came into existence in 1998 
CAST defines human trafficking as “a modern-day form of slavery,” in which victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Victims of trafficking can work in domestic service, factories, farms, restaurants, construction sites, hotel housekeeping, servile marriage, forced prostitution, child prostitution and child pornography.
According to their website, CAST has spearheaded many developments in the anti-trafficking movement. They are the first organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to serving survivors of trafficking, and were instrumental in starting the Los Angeles Slavery and Trafficking Task Force (now called the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Human Trafficking), the first task force in the U.S. dedicated to combating human trafficking. In 2004, CAST opened the country’s first shelter exclusively housing survivors of human trafficking.
CAST’s stated mission is to “assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and work toward ending all instances of such human rights violations." The organization favors a survivor-centric approach, and achieves its mission by providing three main services: Advocacy and coalition building, client service programs, and outreach.
CAST has influenced anti-trafficking legislation, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, and the SB 1569 California bill in 2006, which allows for non-citizen victims of trafficking to gain access to state funded social services for up to one year.
CAST’s Survivor Advisory Caucus is made up of former CAST clients who have healed from their trafficking situations. Members of the caucus organize to speak publicly to raise awareness of human trafficking, and advocate for policy changes. Caucus members took part in the Border Governors Conference in 2008, led by California’s First Lady Maria Shriver.
CAST endorses low-risk activism. They do not encourage activists to take it upon themselves to “save a victim” on their own. CAST takes the approach that doing so can prove dangerous to the victim(s) and/or the individual(s) getting involved. Instead, they encourage individuals to get involved by becoming volunteers, advocating for the abolition of modern day slavery, supporting CAST and other anti-trafficking initiatives through events, drives and fundraising campaigns, and reporting a potential case of trafficking by calling law enforcement, CAST, or the national trafficking hotline (1.888.3737.888).
CAST helped launch Freedom Network USA, a national training and technical assistance project, with funding from the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement As of 2009, there are 29 member organizations from across the U.S. in this network
Locally, CAST partners with the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area Task Force on Human Trafficking, Southern California Partners for Social Justice, Sex Trafficking Outreach Project (STOP), Rescue and Restore Regional Outreach Program, and Sweat Free Advisory Group. California Against Slavery 
Internationally, CAST partners with the Humanity United Action Group, an organization that campaigns against mass atrocities and modern-day slavery, whose members include Free the Slaves, Polaris Project, Solidarity Center, the Ricky Martin Foundation, Not for Sale Campaign, ASSET campaign, Carlson Companies, Vital Voices, and the International Justice Mission.
Human trafficking is not smuggling. There is a legal distinction between these two acts. Smuggling is a consenting business transaction, in which migrants agree to be moved illegally across borders. Smuggling is considered a violation of a state’s immigration laws. Human Trafficking is a crime against a person, and a violation of their human rights. A trafficking victim is not necessarily moved across borders—or moved at all. Trafficking is the subsequent exploitation of a person for forced labor or forced prostitution.
Human trafficking has been subject to increasing national attention, eliciting legislation on the state and federal level. Listed below are some key legislations enacted to combat trafficking and support victims.
CAST has a comprehensive but selective volunteer program, which provides training and education about the best practices for working with victims of trafficking.
Sr. Catherine Marie Kreta, CSJ
Kevin R. Davis
Rachel J. Lee
Dr. Kathryn McMahon
Liliana T. Pérez