Some restaurant workers toil in modern-day slavery

August 05, 2016

Diana’s story Diana clasps her hands, which seem too small to be cracked and callused, as she tells her story publicly for the first time. As a waitress and dishwasher at Costa del Sol in Pacoima, California, she said she worked close to 50 hours a week for nearly two years. She wasn’t even in middle school yet. Diana, now 13, was a victim of human trafficking.

KCRW is not using her real first name to protect her identity.

Her story, recounted by her and Los Angeles County prosecutors, illustrates how difficult it is to uncover instances of labor trafficking in the restaurant industry. It’s a crime that experts say is not common but may be growing and hard to stop.

When Diana showed up late or made a mistake on the job, she was hit. When she wasn’t waiting tables, she had to clean her captor’s apartment. If she didn’t get it clean enough, she was struck with a belt.

Diana’s ordeal started in El Salvador, where she was purchased for $10,000 by a family acquaintance, Dora Alicia Valle. Diana’s mother had planned to have an abortion, instead she gave birth to Diana after promising her to Valle. When Diana turned 8, Valle took ownership of her and brought her to Los Angeles.

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