Hollywood: mind your own business not sex work!
Recently some Hollywood stars signed a petition against Amnesty International on it's proposed sex work policy. The Hollywood stars call out Amnesty not to decriminalize sex work. They've been influenced by people from the anti-prostitution lobby, fed false information, to oppose Amnesty International their intentions to decriminalize sex work.

Why Hollywood stars think they can interfere with my profession is beyond me. They are neither experts, nor does it have anything to do with their profession. You also don't see me petitioning against things regarding their job. So what the hell makes them think they can petition against mine?
I also don't understand why people care so much about what some Hollywood people think. They aren't experts, academics or have any knowledge about this subject. Just because they're famous people, doesn't mean they have any knowledge about what they're talking about. Amnesty on the other hand... they're only the world's leading experts on human rights.

But this petition does show one thing however. The strength of the anti-prostitution lobby. It shows how scary much power these people have, to influence Hollywood stars. I'm sure the Hollywood stars signed this petition with their best intentions, but fact is that they're ignorant about sex work.
But the fact that they were tricked into signing this petition, with obviously false information, shows the power of those who oppose prostitution. The constant attack of this group of people, existing out of radicalists, conservatists and of course Christians, has caused prostitution to become synonym with trafficking, which is an absolutely false idea, but an idea they want people to believe simply because they oppose prostitution on moral grounds.

The proposed policy from Amnesty which is being attacked was an early draft from two years ago already. The goal of Amnesty is to get sex workers more rights, whether they are victims of trafficking or not. It calls out to decriminalize sex workers, johns and pimps. Now, to some of you the idea of decriminalizing a pimp may sound bad, because you associate a pimp with trafficking, but that's not entirely true. A pimp is someone a sex worker works for, in other words an employer. It enables sex workers to work for employers, such as escort agencies for example.

This doesn't mean Amnesty is in favor of trafficking, far from it. After all, they still consider trafficking to be one of the biggest crimes in humanity. But there's a big difference between an employer, or pimp as they call it in the sex industry, and a human trafficking. Because like with any job, an employer can exploit it's people, making that person a trafficker, but not all employers are by default traffickers. And the same thing is true about pimps. It's the whole reason pimps are legal in Holland, but trafficking is not. And it's the reason the suggested pimp-ban by christian parliament member Gert-Jan Segers got shot down (partially thanks to my blog as it seems).

Decriminalizing sex work, would mean that sex workers won't have to be scared to be arrested, if for example they want to go to the police to report abuse. I would surely assume Hollywood stars wouldn't be against this. It would also mean that clients won't have to be scared to be arrested for consensual sex with another person in exchange for money, meaning sex workers won't have to look up shady places where authorities such as the police are absent, in order to find their clients. This would enable clients to report any possible abuses for example, without having to fear being arrested because they're clients. We know for a fact that many victims of trafficking were saved by their clients, like Svetlina for example. 

Decriminalizing sex work, means you simply empower sex workers, by not turning their profession into a criminal activity. Things such as exploitation of sex workers, or coercion are still considered to be criminal activities. It means you give sex workers rights, both those that choose to do this job willingly, like me, as well as victims of trafficking. And I cannot imagine Hollywood stars opposing the idea of giving victims more rights, or the idea of giving people who want to do this job willingly more rights. 

I want to be able to do my job in a safe manner. Criminalizing it, would mean I cannot execute my job safe anymore, but I would have to deviate to more shady places, where authorities have little access or control, leaving me more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Decriminalizing my profession, means I can do my job legal and safe, and the police can control it and catch those exploiting or abusing sex workers, because it doesn't have to happen out of sight for authorities.

I therefore fully support Amnesty International their proposal to decriminalize sex work. The notion that buying sex is not a right, is irrelevant. Buying sex isn't a human right, just like buying a movie isn't a human right. That doesn't however mean we should banish movies or sex work, but nearly empower the workers that work in these industries, to protect them from abuse and exploitation. 

Amnesty will debate on the proposal next week the 7th of August in Dublin, so if you want sex workers to have more rights. If you want sex workers to be protected from abuse, violence and exploitation, and have the ability to work under safe conditions with access to the justice system, health care and rescue. If you want sex workers to have the choice to do with their lives what they want to do, and not what someone else wants them to do (whether that be a Meryl Streep or a pimp), than please sign this petition, and let Amnesty know that they don't have to fear the anti-prostitution lobby, and ignorant Hollywood stars who don't know what they're talking about.

Sign the petition here: Support Amnesty International's proposed policy calling for the decriminalization of sex work

Dutch version
Shocking: Numbers of human trafficking in Amsterdam
"Every day 400 women are commercially raped in Amsterdam", those were the words of mayor Eberhard van der Laan of Amsterdam, when defending Project 1012, which aims to close down 40% of all the windows in Amsterdam's famous Red Light District. The number he uses is based on the total amount of sex workers in Amsterdam, and not just those working in the Red Light District. In total there are about 4000 sex workers in Amsterdam, of which about 600 work in the Red Light District, so only a small portion of 15%. He used a research done among 94 sex workers about 5 years ago, in where 9 women stated they were forced (resulting in 10%), to claim that 400 women would be forced in prostitution in Amsterdam. In short, he's defending a project regarding 600 people, by using a shady calculation method from a total of 4000 people, to crank up the number of victims to an amount which would justify Project 1012.

But what the mayor doesn't tell you, are the official statistics that get presented each year. Because the official statistics are that last year there were 38 presumed victims in all of Amsterdam from the sex industry, and not 400 like how the mayor claims. These statistics don't just come from some small research done among less than a hundred sex workers, like the research the mayor used to make his false claims, but these numbers come from all official authorities and organisations who deal with human trafficking. These numbers are collected each year by CoMensha, the official organisation in Holland who collects all data about human trafficking, and who brings out a report each year.

Authorities which report to CoMensha are official authorities, such as the police, the public prosecutors, as well as various anti-trafficking organisations and victim shelters. All of this data is collected, and ends up in a final report of CoMensha each year. And to make things easier to report, no actual proof is required, in fact, only a hunch or a hint is enough to report these 'presumed' victims by authorities and organisations. This makes it easier for CoMensha to get a complete view over not just all the victims of whom have admitted they were victims, but also to get a view on those of whom there are only suspicions. In short, these statistics are both actual victims, as well as even the slightest suspicions.

The 38 presumed victims make up just an extremely small portion of all the sex workers in Amsterdam. In fact, 38 victims would make up less than 1% of all the sex workers in Amsterdam, even though every one would be one too many. Also the year before, in 2013, the number of presumed victims did not even come close to the 400 the mayor claims. In 2013 there were 48 presumed victims in all of Amsterdam in the sex industry.

Now one might wonder if these statistics are reliable, but than again, why wouldn't the be? They come from sources such as the police, the public prosecution office, anti-trafficking organisations and shelters. All organisations and authorities which in the past have claimed much higher percentages based on thin air. For example the police claimed it was 50 to 90%, but this was only based on the personal opinions of 6 police officers, and not on any actual research or individual cases. And if their claim would be true, how come they can't even find more than 50 sex workers of whom they have suspicions, if they really believe it's more than 50%.

Even if all of the victims of trafficking would come only from the Red Light District, it still wouldn't be much higher than 6% in 2013 and 8% in 2014. But that's assuming all 38 from last year would have come from the Red Light District alone, and none other from any other form or place where prostitution is present in Amsterdam. That's highly unlikely since for example 2 of these 38 presumed victims were male, which don't work in the Red Light District. And 4 girls were under the age of 18, of which the police has repeatedly stated in Amsterdam that minors don't work in the Red Light District at all. I even understood from some well informed sources that last year only 6 or 7 victims would have worked in the Red Light District.

One could claim that perhaps the police doesn't see everything, but also that is highly doubtful. In fact, in 2013 window prostitutes alone were checked by authorities2535 times. That, while there are only 400 windows in Amsterdam, meaning each window gets checked at least 6 times a year, an average of every two months. These 6 times a year is also the minimum required amount of times authorities are required by the mayor to check window prostitution. And yet, despite all these check ups by the police and city officials, they couldn't find more than 50 sex workers in Amsterdam in two years time, of whom they could even have the slightest suspicion that they were victims of trafficking.

This is of course quite a different picture from what the mayor paints of prostitution, and the Red Light District in particular. And this is because the mayor is trying to sell the closure of window brothels, and the entire Project 1012, as a crime fighting project, while in reality it is nothing more than a real estate project of which the sex workers have become the victim. After all, if people and journalists would find out Project 1012 is nothing more than a real estate project, to make city officials rich, while kicking out vulnerable women onto the streets without a job, this could cause some resistance against the entire project. After all, the mayor is claiming to be saving prostitutes, not endangering them more, like how he really is doing. But the mayor needs to justify his real estate project, and thus he comes with false claims of forced prostitution, using false numbers to mislead the general public and the media.

When me and 200 of my colleagues went to demonstrate against the closures of more window brothels, and demanded windows to be reopened, the mayor said to us that we should trust him and that less windows would be closed. Yet the first act he did after the demonstration, was closing down 18 unscheduled window brothels, outside of the brothels that were scheduled to close down. That's not exactly closing down less windows, but more than were originally planned. Meanwhile the mayor continued to look for an investor in his project to buy up window brothels, since the city council has cut off more funding from the city itself, and finally found Syntrus Achmea prepared to invest in the project.

But Syntrus Achmea would only invest in Project 1012, if they were allowed another real estate project elsewhere in the city. Or was it the other way around? Did the mayor refuse Syntrus Achmea a real estate project they wanted to do, unless they also invested in Project 1012? In short, the mayor blackmailed Syntrus Achmea into financing Project 1012, in exchange for the project Syntrus Achmea was really interested in, which was not Project 1012. But since the mayor is desperately seeking investors for this disastrous project, he had not much of a choice if he wanted Project 1012 to succeed.

Forcing an investor to invest in Project 1012 like this is against all laws by the way. It's illegal. But the city government lacks the balls to attack the mayor on this. They are too careful not trying to loose their own face, while the mayor is aggressively trying to get Project 1012 ready before his period as a mayor ends next year. And the mayor is aggressively selling his project using false statistics, leaving out the official statistics which are that last year there were 38 possible victims, and not 400!

Dutch version
Forced prostitute still 'happy' with her job in prostitution
Remember Svetlina from Jojanneke her TV show 'Jojanneke in de Prostitutie'? The girl that was forced and pimped into prostitution against her will? Remember how terrible she felt doing this job, calling it 'degrading and humiliating' and seeing this job as 'selling her body'. The picture we got of Svetlina was a sad story, forced against her will into a job she didn't want to do, and even seemingly seemed to hate. The picture we got of this sad Bulgarian girl was clear, a girl who never would have wanted to do prostitution, was forced by a brutal pimp into this profession. It begged the question whether or not prostitution was a choice or not. Fortunately Jojanneke stated that Svetlina 'used to work' behing the windows. Thank God that girl was out of her terrible situation, and not having to do this 'terrible' job anymore, right?

Well, guess again. Because the same girl, Svetlina, is still working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, and already featured in two other documentaries before in the same period, and each time her stories seems to be a bit different. During the TV show of Jojanneke she was completely forced against her will to do a job she hated. But back in 2012 she went on Dutch TV for BNN, to claim she was forced into this job from 2008, but not anymore, because now she was 'one of the few' girls doing this job without a pimp.

And while the TV show of Jojanneke was being shot in the period of 2013 and 2014, Svetlina featured in another documentary called Right Light Conversations, in which she states she could do another job, but simply doesn't want to. In fact, her choice of career doesn't get the approval of her mother, but she doesn't care, she's doing the things which make her happy. She's totally willingly consciously doing this job, despite the clear disapproval of her family. Quit a different perspective from what we got from the TV show of Jojanneke.



All of the sudden this woman, who seemingly seemed to hate prostitution during the TV show of Jojanneke, calling it degrading and humiliating, and seeing it as 'selling her body', is apparently still doing the same job even after she was forced. And she does not seem to want to quit this job, despite the disapproval of her mother, and despite the fact that she has other choices, but she simply doesn't want to do something different.
It could be part of the 'creative' editing method Jojanneke used to frame sex workers as victims, and clients as evildoers who are ignorant and not caring. But looking at the different stories Svetlina tells in her different appearances, it's not to say only Jojanneke is to blame.

In 2012, during her BNN performance, Svetlina claimed she came here 4 years ago with her pimp, meaning back in 2008. While a year later, in 2013, she claims in a documentary that two or three years ago (2010-2011), she lived in the streets of Bulgaria for a year. So, how can the same person be at two different places at the same time? At one time she came her already back in 2008, and in the other story she came here between 2010 and 2011, after having lived in the streets of Bulgaria for about a year. But more interestingly, how can one claim in one TV show her work was degrading and humiliating, calling it 'selling her body', while in another documentary it shows she's still working, calling herself 'lucky', not willing to change her job, and being happy with her career choice? She also calls her customers nice and funny, sometimes even missing her customers if she doesn't see them for a while.

How do these things add up to the stories we heard from her in the TV show of Jojanneke? In the TV show of Jojanneke she was a sad victim of abuse, who was forced into prostitution against her will, seemingly hating the job. While in the other documentary all of the sudden she wouldn't want to change her job, loving her job, and totally being happy with working behind the windows?
I don't know if this is just creative editing of Jojanneke, but also the story of this girl simply doesn't add up. Her timeline doesn't add up at times, and her statements at times seem to contradict each other.

I don't know if this girl really was forced or not, as her statements at times contradict each other, as well as her sentiments about the job itself. But if she was forced into prostitution, it just proves one thing. She's still working! So apparently, even though she was forced into this job, know that she has the choice, she still chooses to do prostitution. So after all the bad things that supposedly happened to her, she still prefers to do this job, over any other job, even though she can choose to do something different at any moment.

It's an image I recognize from a Bulgarian friend of mine. It's the only girl I've ever met that was forced. She used to be forced into this job, but after a while fought herself free, and went to the police to press charges against her pimp. She spend a year in a shelter, and got a job working in a restaurant. And guess what? After a year of working in a restaurant, she wanted to go back into prostitution again! So even though she had the choice, just like Svetlina, she still choose prostitution over another job. And we're still talking about whether or not women are willing to do this job, if even ex-victims are still willing to do this job?

To me it just proves one thing. Prostitution is a choice, unless you are forced into it. But just because you are forced into this job, doesn't mean you don't want to do this job. It just means you don't want to be exploited and forced. The forcing and the exploitation stands separate from the job itself. We would have the same situation for someone that was forced into being an au-pair. People who are forced into that job, also don't like to be forced, to be taken advantage of, to be exploited. That however doesn't mean they hate being an au-pair. And the same thing is true about forced prostitution. Just because a prostitute was forced, doesn't mean she wasn't willing to do this job. In fact, Svetlina and my Bulgarian friend prove they are willing to do this job if they have the choice.

I'm tired of this whole discussion about whether or not prostitution is a choice. Just because there are victims that were forced into this job, doesn't mean they wouldn't want to do it. Svetlina and my Bulgarian friend are the living proof of this ,just like many others. Prostitution is a choice, but that doesn't mean you have to accept being forced by someone else or being exploited by someone. We want to work free, for ourselves, and not for someone else. That is something that applies to all sex workers, forced or not, exploited or not.

Update 22/07/2015: From a Tweet of one of my followers yesterday I got some more information about Svetlina her story. Apparently Svetlina already featured in the magazine S-Werk, a Dutch magazine published by the former union for sex workers De Rode Draad. She even featured in that magazine as cover girl.

In the interview in S-Werk it becomes clear that Svetlina was already working in prostitution before she got into contact with her pimp. So much for being forced into a job she didn't want to do. Apparently she was an art student back in Bulgaria, and after a fight with her mother, she left the house. After first working at a bar, she ended up working in prostitution in Bulgaria. There she met a guy that told her she could do this job in Holland without being exploited. She agreed and in 2008 went with him to Holland to work behind the windows here. Unfortunately he started to exploit her, but quickly after a month she got rid of her pimp, with the help of a client. Ever since than Svetlina has been working in the Red Light District, without a pimp, by choice.

It just shows once again how Jojanneke framed sex workers only to look like victims, but disregarded the fact that even ex-victims still like to work in prostitution, and the fact that they do this completely by their own choice. But more importantly, it proves that the choice to work in prostitution in the first place, was Svetlina her own choice. Nobody forced her into a job she didn't want to do, she was already doing this job before she ever met her pimp. She is a victim of exploitation, not a victim of coercion. Jojanneke nearly focused on the one month she was a victim of exploitation, and didn't report anything about the other 5+ years she has been working there by choice.

Dutch version
Prostitution law proposal uses false statistics
A couple of weeks ago a law initiative was submitted to parliament, to criminalize clients that knowingly and willingly take advantage of prostitutes which are victims of trafficking. That may sound nice and noble at first, but there is much wrong with this law proposal. The initiative law bases itself for example on false statistics about the size of trafficking in prostitution, doesn't mention the fact that it is designed for only a handful of suspects a year, leaves too much room for interpretation and the results will be minimal while the negative side effects are huge.

The law proposal revolves around clients that knew, or 'could have known' that a prostitute they visited was a victim of human trafficking. The idea behind this is that it must be terrible to be forced into prostitution, but it must even be worse that clients that know about this don't do anything about it. And to display how 'large' the problems of human trafficking are, they use a police report from 2012 in the text of the law proposal. In the law proposal it states:

"For example in the Crime Analysis Sexual Exploitation 2012 of the police it states that 55% of the prostitutes are victims of sexual exploitation."

However, when you look at this police report, you will see that this 55% has been calculated using a doubtful calculation method. For example, they used the number of reported 'possible' victims of CoMensha from 2010, the same numbers on which the reports of the National Rapporteur Human Trafficking are based. And since we're talking here about 'possible' victims, these are not victims for sure, but sex workers with whom there are (minimal) suspicions that perhaps they could be victims. In other words, it's not sure at all that all these suspicions are correct.

In one of my previous posts I've already shown you some examples of how doubtful some of these suspicions are. For example tourists who come to Amsterdam to spend time with friends are being reported as 'possible' victims, while they're not even working in prostitution, but also prostitutes themselves are being reported who show no signs of trafficking whatsoever. And those are the reports that CoMensha sends each year to the National Rapporteur Human Trafficking to write a report about it.

Even though, still the number of 'possible' victims reported by CoMensha aren't even close to 55% of the prostitutes in Holland. After all, they reported 797 'possible' victims in 2010 in prostitution, while there are an estimated 20.000 prostitutes in Holland. Not even close to 55%, but closer to 4%. And this is the point where the police report all of the sudden starts to do something weird, calculating and manipulating the numbers, almost as if they want to get the numbers as high as possible.

For example, the police report uses the assumption that the police and other authorities and organisations would only see 7,3% of all hidden crimes. This assumption leads to the fact that they multiplied the 797 suspicions by 7,3% to calculate the 100%, resulting in a massive 10.917 victims. That these are first of all only suspicions, is being completely ignored in this report, but also the calculation method is highly doubtful. Even the National Rapporteur Human Trafficking wrote extensively about the doubtful statistics from this report in one of her own reports (from page 9).

According to the National Rapporteur there are several reasons why these numbers are not reliable, which she mentions one by one with an extensive explanation. But to give you an example of one of her reasons. If you would use the same calculation method the police report used for the year before and after, than the number of victims in only 3 years time would have more than doubled, from 6.080 in 2009 to a massive 13.080 in 2011. And even that is for the National Rapporteur highly unrealistic.
Besides that they also completely pass the notion that if there's more attention for something, like for example human trafficking in prostitution, this also results in a better view over the complete problem. So actually with that what the National Rapporteur is trying to say, is that the assumption of the police report, that police and authorities would only see 7,3% of all the trafficking issues in prostitution would be way too low, since if there's more focus on this issue, thus also results in a better overview.

And this begs the question why they used such exaggerating numbers to support their proposed law. Isn't there enough to base this law upon? After all, we're still talking about a sizable amount of victims a year, even if there aren't tens of thousands like how the police report wants to suggest.
And this is where we might have hid a crucial point. Because I talked with one of the initiative takers of this law, to whom I also spoke out about my criticism for this proposal. And from that conversation I learned that in reality we are only talking about a few cases a year this law would be useful for. At this moment these people get away with it because it's not punishable, but politicians don't want this small group to get away. So this is a custom made law, not designed for a large group of clients, but a few loners they are spending a lot of time on to catch.

But is all this trouble worth it? After all, the results will be minimal if there are only a few cases a year. Still a large group of customers gets very nervous about this law, since they simply can't know the women they visit are victims or not. After all, it's not that easy to tell, unlike how some Christians and feminists want us to believe. It's a hidden crime, the same reason the police and authorities would only see 7,3%, like the police report said itself.

But this is why the law proposal not only criminalizes people of whom it can be proven they knew about it, but also clients that 'should have known it'. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation on what is meant by 'should have known'. And this could lead to situations in which people suspect a client knowingly visited a forced prostitute, while in reality he didn't know about this. But because the suspicions are enough to put someone behind bars, since they 'should have known it', this leaves a lot of room on how to interpret this. Even The Council for the Judiciary calls this description too vague because it leaves too much room for interpretation.

So clients become scared that they will be incorrectly put away as someone who took advantage of a situation, while in reality this was not the case. And in these kind of situations, it doesn't help if people can be thrown in jail only based on the notion that 'they should have known'. In short, it doesn't have to be proven they knew it, if appearances are against you, you're fucked. This could lead to horrifying situations which we saw earlier this year in Holland, where clients were hunted down and eventually committed suicide because of this, even before they went to trail. They apparently did not see another way out, an example of people being judged guilty before the trial was even started. While in this country someone is still innocent until proven guilty.

In the beginning of the year they hunted down clients of a minor prostitute who offered her services in a hotel in Valkenburg. That this girl did this maybe on her own initiative, and wasn't forced at all like how her first testimony states, was kept quiet by the Public Prosecutor. It was only after the parents of the girl got involved that the girl suddenly changed her testimony to being exploited and forced. The Public Prosecutor however later changed the charges from being forced and exploited by a loverboy, to just making a minor work in prostitution. It was also not such an important thing for the Public Prosecutor, since anyone is by definition punishable if they let a minor work in prostitution (against their will or not), or if they visit one (whether they knew about it or not).

Also the fact that even the hotel staff thought the girl looked very mature for her age (they thought she was at least 18 or 19 years old), was kept quiet by the Public Prosecutor. The Public Prosecutor did show they had no sympathies for clients and hunted them down, almost as a prelude to this law proposal. 'Many wives will be surprised by the police at their door', a spokesperson of the Public Prosecutor said. The Public Prosecutor made it no secret they were after the clients, whether they knew about it that the girl was a minor or not, and would not keep it hidden for their families and friends.

Eventually this even led to two men committing suicide. The motives of the suicides itself may never surface, but it is clear that this was the result of they highly aggressive way in which the Public Prosecutor hunted down clients. I even got the impression that they were merely using this case as an example for this law proposal. But after two clients committed their suicide they Public Prosecutor got very quiet. This shows the highly aggressive and unwanted way how the Public Prosecutor treats suspects, and would treat clients in the future with this law proposal.

I therefore have no faith in the Public Prosecutor and their abilities nor desires to handle the future suspects of this law proposal carefully and with integrity, and I therefore also fully understand the fear many clients have if this proposal should pass in parliament. Destroying families, even leading up to suicides can never be the intention of a law which only focuses on a handful of cases a year. Yet, according to the initiative takers of this law proposal, this law would be a good way to pressure clients to report abuses if they come across any. Because obviously, who doesn't want to report things if this can have huge consequences for your private situation, and can even lead to people committing suicide?

I am in favor of taking down clients that knowingly and willingly take advantage of a forced prostitute. However, not every victim of trafficking is forced, and not every victim is doing her job against her will. But this law completely passes that notion. Above all, this law leans too much on doubtful statistics, it leaves too much room for interpretation, will have very little results because it only affects a small group of people a year and above all has extremely possible negative side effects of families being destroyed and possible suicides.

This law therefore looks more like a discouragement policy from politicians towards clients not to visit anymore prostitutes, to avoid the chance that they might be seen as a suspect by the Public Prosecutor, in stead of actually focusing on fighting human trafficking. After all, we are only talking about a handful of cases a year, and not a single trafficking case gets prevented by this. After all, for this law to work human trafficking has already happened, and due to the difficulties of providing proof in such cases it is doubtful it will have much result. The negative side effects however are large, especially for clients, but also for the sex industry itself, which according to the initiative takers isn't a goal on itself.

Dutch version
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    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.