National trucking anti-trafficking organization Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) is pleased to announce the first annual winner of its Harriet Tubman award.
The award, which carries with it a $500 check, is named in honor of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman, whose courageous personal actions resulted in the transportation of 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad and whose overall role in the freedom movement was instrumental in the freeing of thousands more. Born into slavery in 1820, Miss Tubman was the first African American woman buried with full military honors and the first to have the inaugural Liberty ship named after her – the SS Harriet Tubman – by the US Maritime Commission.
“Because of Harriet Tubman’s connection to transportation through the Underground Railroad and her heroic work to free thousands of slaves, TAT believes she epitomizes the symbol of freedom a trucking anti-trafficking award represents,” said Kendis Paris, TAT executive director. “TAT is dedicated to the prevention of and/or rescue from human trafficking through the intervention of members of the trucking industry. Each year, through a nomination process and the information collected by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, we will present the Harriet Tubman award to the member of the trucking industry whose direct actions help save or improve the lives of those enslaved or prevent human trafficking from taking place.
“For 2013, we’re pleased to announce that Tracy Mullins, general manager of the Petro Stopping Center® in Spokane, Washington, is our first Harriet Tubman award winner,” she continued. “Her ability to implement training into appropriate actions resulted in the possible prevention of human trafficking of two minors at her station.”
Mullins is a Spokane resident and a 14-year veteran of the transportation industry. She credits the TAT training required of all employees/managers of TravelCenters of America LLC or TA, with playing a pivotal role in her awareness of “something that could be wrong.”
In relating the incident which earned her the award, Mullins recounted that she was walking into a restaurant near her travel plaza to talk to the manager. She noticed two young girls sitting with an older man. “Not that the situation was odd,” she said, “but the man looked as if something could be wrong. I positioned myself close enough to the table to hear the young girls ask for a ride to Seattle. At this point, the images of all the young girls from the training video were going through my mind. I approached the table and asked the girls if everything was okay. One of the girls told me the man was her uncle. The man seemed very uncomfortable and removed himself from the situation. The young girls then asked other drivers for a ride.”
Mullins realized there was a problem and notified law enforcement. The girls turned out to be runaways from a neighboring state with only $5 between them.
Mullins stated, “This is a very special award for me, because, as a mother, I know we helped two young girls not become a statistic that day.”
“Human trafficking is a worldwide issue. We and TAT recognize that, in the United States, much of this activity relies upon the U.S. highway system for trafficking transport, and that because of our prime locations principally along the Interstate Highway System, our professional driver customers and our employees just might be in the right place at the right time to help a victim. We provide employees and drivers with information about what to look for through our company-wide training and awareness programs. We are honored by the news that Tracy received this award. We are proud of her and of the fact that she took the TAT training to heart and used it," commented Tom O’Brien, president and CEO of TA.