Karen Skieczius, Sharon Cardinal and Myrtle Thomas appeared cheerful but determined as they approached several businesses Saturday to spread the word about the reality of human trafficking.
The three women were among 15 residents who volunteered to be a part of Tracy’s first Day of Action. Their goal was to convince 23 local businesses to display human trafficking awareness posters in English and Spanish, as required by Senate Bill 1193, which became law in 2012.
“I feel there really is a need to educate businesses in human trafficking and how to really get the word out to victims or possible victims on how they can report and get help to get out of their particular situation,” Skieczius said.
Thomas said she learned about the issue when she attended a human trafficking awareness event in February at the West Valley Mall. She said she was so amazed by what she learned that she made a commitment to help with any future events.
Cardinal said part of her motivation to volunteer Saturday was to try to keep her family and others in the Tracy community safe.
“I have granddaughters, and that’s my main concern,” she said, “to educate them and try to get these others that are in that trap out of that trap. It’s really important information to have.”
Before venturing out, the volunteers were taught the history of the law, basic facts about human trafficking and some procedures to approach the people at their assigned businesses.
Working in teams of three or four, the volunteers went to local massage parlors, bars, truck stops, farm labor contractors and Tracy Municipal Airport.
At the airport, Cardinal, Skieczius and Thomas were greeted with a smile by the Skyview Aviation office manager, Lauren Ortega. When they explained the law, she invited them to hang their posters in the main lounge on the wall next to the television.
“I think it’s a good way for people to know that there are resources for those that need help and someone that might need to reach out to those in need,” Ortega said.
Two massage parlors on the women’s list also complied with the mandate, and employees at two other businesses agreed to give their managers the posters and a packet that included a letter signed by county District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar and Chief Larry Esquivel of Tracy Police Department.
According to event coordinator Jennifer Douglas, none of the businesses approached on Saturday refused the posters, but she didn’t have a tally of how many allowed the volunteers to put them up immediately.
Senate Bill 1193 was signed into law by the governor on Sept. 24, 2012, and requires certain types of businesses to display information about human trafficking where employees and the public can read it. Those who fail to do so can be fined $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
Douglas said she planned to have a second volunteer event in June to make sure all the mandated businesses had displayed the two posters within 30 days of being notified of the law.
“It went really well,” she said by telephone Tuesday. “All the businesses took them. It was a success for sure.”