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Teamsters Local 856 Member Saves Two Lives from Human Trafficking

Denise Miracle and a Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy

Denice Miracle has been a Customer Service Representative at American Airlines for 27 years. As a worker in the airline industry, she’s always thinking of the safety of her passengers above all else. For this reason, it was fortunate that she was working one fateful day last year when two young teenagers approached her desk at Sacramento International Airport.

Miracle knew that something strange was going on when she noticed that the two teenage girls didn’t have much luggage.

“Normally, if a teenager is traveling, they have a lot of stuff – these two girls only had two small carry-ons, and their parents weren’t even with them,” Miracle said.  “Some kids are really travel-savvy, but not these two – they didn’t even have ID. I had an internal instinct that said ‘something is not right.’ ”

Miracle notified her supervisor, and then called the Sheriff's Department. They arrived on the scene shortly.

“The police came and checked it out – then I could tell something was going on,” Miracle said. “There was one, then two, then three, then four officers…I went about my day checking people in, but I realized something pretty serious was happening over there.”

The sheriff’s deputies investigated the situation, and discovered that the tickets had been bought with a stolen credit card. The 15-year-old and 17-year-old girls told police they met a man called "Drey" on Instagram and he invited them to go to New York for a modeling job. They said he was going to pay them $2,000 to model in a music video. Were it not for the intervention of Denise Miracle, things could have been much worse: the deputies told Miracle that had the two girls gotten on the plane, their parents never would’ve seen them again.

“I’m very, very thankful Ms. Miracle with American Airlines was able to use her intuition and concern and actually say something,” Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Sanderson told The Sacramento Bee. “Without her, I wouldn’t have been called and we wouldn’t have intervened with these girls.”

The incident speaks to the importance of the airline workers who are responsible for protecting their passengers – whether Teamsters are working as pilots, customer service representatives, mechanics, or dispatchers; all workers in this industry are on the front lines of protecting human life every day at their jobs.

Customer service representatives in particular are uniquely positioned to fight human trafficking as they are often in the best position to rescue victims. In recent years, initiatives such as Airline Ambassadors and the Blue Campaign have sought to bring awareness to this very important issue, and workers in the industry are increasingly being taught to spot victims of this horrific practice.

"We check people in every day and we try to interact with people, even if it’s just for a second,” Miracle said. “We’re the first face that they run into, so anything you see that’s out of the ordinary, maybe take a minute to evaluate the situation and ask why some young people are by themselves. I’m a proud union member, and American Airlines is very committed to fighting human trafficking. Any and all training we can get to not just American Airlines employees, but other airline employees; that can only help.”

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