During its January 30 meeting, the Burbank City Council approved a groundbreaking ordinance in the fight against human trafficking. This new mandate compels a wider array of local businesses to display information that assists victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation, bolstered by strict enforcement protocols. This initiative is crucial for raising awareness, targeting traffickers, and offering vital support to victims.
This legislative change was driven by the advocacy efforts of the Zonta Club of Burbank Area. Demonstrating their dedication at the city council session where the matter was not heard until after midnight, Gloria Salas, incoming Governor for Zonta International District 9, Joy Collins-Brodt and other members underscored their commitment to eradicating human trafficking, aligning with the global mission of Zonta Clubs. In a related effort, the local chapter also hosted a Human Trafficking Forum at the Burbank Buena Vista Library on January 27 to heighten community awareness.
“Ensuring that these informative posters are displayed in local hotels, beauty salons, eateries, and various businesses is a testament to Burbank’s resolve in combating labor and sexual trafficking,” said Salas.
The Burbank City Council’s recently passed legislation bolsters the fight against human trafficking. It mandates that an expanded group of businesses not only display information on trafficking but also adhere to training requirements. Additionally, the ordinance sets up a system for compliance checks, inspections, and investigations, overseen by the Building and Safety Division with support from Zonta Club volunteers. This framework aims to raise public awareness, provide victim support, and ensure adherence to the law, imposing fines for repeated violations.
Collins-Brodt, an experienced nonprofit leader and advocate for victims, recognizes the Burbank and Los Angeles’ area particular vulnerability to human trafficking due to its hospitality industry and transient visitors. She pointed out the lack of awareness among businesses regarding their statutory duty to inform the public about trafficking and agreed that volunteer efforts were key to bridging this awareness gap. She posed a rhetorical challenge, “If not us, then who?”
Ray Johal, Burbank’s Senior Assistant City Attorney, during his address to the council, delineated human trafficking as a violation of personal freedom, whether for forced labor or services, including both sexual and labor exploitation of undocumented individuals and minors. He referenced a U.S. Department of State report that identified California as having the highest number of trafficking victims in 2023, with 2,122 cases recorded. Johal also addressed common misconceptions, highlighting that traffickers can be part of organized crime, small family businesses, or even family units, and utilize various means for recruitment, including online platforms.
Mayor Nick Schultz commended Salas and her fellow Zonta Club members for their dedication in advancing the ordinance. “It’s a testament to how community members can drive significant change,” Mayor Schultz said.
Salas’ efforts in advocating for this ordinance have established a collaboration between the Zonta Club and the city for the ordinance’s implementation, which includes distributing notifications and conducting annual business compliance reviews, thus easing the workload on city staff.
The work comes naturally to the Zonta Club of Burbank Area, which hosted a Human Trafficking Forum on January 27 to raise awareness of the issue. The event featured an array of speakers—a survivor, a law enforcement official, and frontline advocates—who provided insights on protecting vulnerable populations, particularly children.
In his capacity as Deputy Attorney General, distinct from his mayoral duties, Nick Schultz spoke at the forum. He underscored the critical need for businesses to join the fight against the lucrative and fast-growing crime of human trafficking. Collins-Brodt steered the dialogue as moderator, while Nayeli May from Journey Out highlighted their survivor-led approach to supporting victims in their transition to safety.
Patrick Erlandson of FatherCon challenged misconceptions about men’s roles in trafficking, advocating for positive support. Additionally, Sergeant J.H. Walker from the Los Angeles County Human Trafficking Taskforce emphasized the importance of investing in prevention for young girls.
Survivor and advocate Sandy Esparza, representing ZOE International, shared her harrowing journey, bringing a stark reminder that trafficking occurs in plain sight and escape is rare. State Senator Anthony Portantino’s attendance underscored the policy implications of the forum.
Salas is recognized for her activism spanning various community efforts. Kelli Potts, President of the Zonta Club, expressed profound appreciation for Salas’ contributions: “This is a massive leap forward in the fight against this terrible crime. We owe a ton of gratitude to Gloria for her dedication and leadership on this issue. She keeps motivating us to make a real difference in our community and beyond.”
“We’re ready to hit the ground running,” Salas said, noting that Zonta Club will partner with nonprofit Journey Out to receive training on how to spot signs of human trafficking and may also partner with organizations such as the Burbank Business & Professional Women and Glendale Soroptimists to help spread the word.
“This ordinance sends a clear and strong message to the perpetrators that we will not tolerate this insidious crime in our city and to the victims, who are adults as well as minors, that they have a pathway to safety and freedom,” Salas said.