In November 2007, I wrote a story entitled "Slavery Alive and Well In New York and the rest of the US" at Union Review , in which i run through the various ways in which is not only tolerated and unregulated but the facts are so underground the real tallies on these human rights infractions are almost impossible to figure. From the Long Island, NY perfume barons who had actual slaves living in their house, the slave like conditions in which undocumented workers in the construction industry must endure, to the prostitution industry that uses indentured servitude to pay their way to the states which the NY Times reported on way back in 1994. Before that story, back in 7-08, I wrote about the H1B Visa abuse, mostly in the tech sector, that a law firm actually had the audacity to produce a video training seminar where they boast on how to use this procedure. That story, "Corp Objective: Disqualify Qualified American Workers, Get H-1b Visa's For Non-Citizens." and it's follow-up, "Offshoring and H1B Visa abuse, the 1-2 punch to knockout US tech workers" are among my two most read entries since I have been writing about the labor movement. Which brings us to the newest in the trend of slavery and Visa abuse that is alive and well in these United States.
From:ABC News 3-07-08
Revolt in Mississippi: Indian Workers Claim 'Slave Treatment'How is it that we have temporary Visa's for Foreign workers when we have vast unemployment here in the United States? It's amazing how they are getting away with this, under the cloak of labor shortages, I fucking know plenty of welders who are quite capable of doing the job for an honest days pay. Never mind the fact that big business wants more Visa's. People's Weekly World has a more in depth article, from way back in March 2007:
Workers Call for Signal International to Be Prosecuted on Alleged Human Trafficking Charges
Rebelling against alleged "slave treatment," some 100 workers recruited from India staged a dramatic protest at a Mississippi shipyard Thursday, claiming they had been tricked into coming to the United States.
The workers, brought from India to work as welders and pipe-fitters at Signal International shipyard in Pascagoula, hurled their hard hats at company gates and demanded a federal investigation.
The workers claim they were defrauded by a Signal International recruiter in India who promised them green cards and permanent residency in the U.S. in exchange for a $20,000 fee. The workers allege that they instead received 10-month work visas, which was only enough time for them to pay off their recruitment fees.
The workers also claim that Signal forced them to live in substandard housing, with 24 men crammed into a small room. The men say Signal charged them more than $1,000 a month to live in company housing.
"For more than one year, hundreds of Indian workers at Signal International have been living like slaves," said former Signal worker Sabulal Vijayan. "Today the workers are coming out to declare their freedom. This trafficking needs to end."
The workers have reported their situation to the U.S. Department of Justice and are calling for Signal International to be prosecuted on human trafficking charges.
Signal International strongly denied the workers' allegations. The company released a statement saying, "Unfortunately, a few of the workers whom Signal had sponsored for H2B visas and recruited have made baseless and unfounded allegations against Signal concerning their employment and living conditions." According to the statement, "The vast majority of the workers whom Signal recruited has been satisfied with the employment and living conditions at Signal."
Signal called its housing complex "state of the art" and said government inspections have "found that Signal's practices and facilities are fully compliant with the law."
The Mississippi Gulf Coast has faced a severe labor shortage in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and many companies have replenished their workforce with overseas labor brought in under a guest worker plan. Human rights groups, however, charge that many foreign workers have been exploited by their employers.
"The U.S. State Department calls it 'a repulsive crime' when recruiters and employers in other parts of the world bind guest workers with crushing debts and threats of deportation," said Saket Soni of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice. "This is precisely what is happening on the Gulf Coast."
Guest workers fired after protesting ‘slave’ conditionsSuppression of News that matters
Hundreds of guest workers from India are protesting conditions in a Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard that immigrant rights activists compare to slavery.
Strike line formed when more than 200 workers walked off of the job at Signal, March 9, in solidarity with at 3 employees that they believe were wrongfully terminated and illegally imprisoned by management on Signal’s property. MIRA photo.
Many of the workers gathered in a church on March 11 in this Gulf Coast port, after their employer, Signal International, threatened to send some of them home. Signal is a large corporation that repairs and services oil drilling platforms around the world.
According to Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, “they were hired in India by a labor recruiter sent by Signal. They had to pay exorbitant amounts to the company, to the recruiter and to the attorney who did the labor certification for them.”
Labor traffickers globalized
Signal brought about 300 workers from India in December to work in its Mississippi yard, and another 300 to work in two yards in Texas. The workers are part of the H2B visa program, in which the U.S. government allows companies to recruit workers outside the country and bring them here under contract. The visas are good for 10 months, but the company can renew them for those it wants to keep longer. The workers must remain employed, and if they lose their jobs, they must go home.
“I had to pay $14,000,” says one of those workers, Joseph Jacob. “I worked for years in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, and I spent all the money I had to get the visa, which the recruiter promised would be a permanent residence visa. But that visa never came, and finally he said they could get us a H2B visa. That would give us 10 months of work, and if the company renewed it, we might get as much as 30 months. I thought that was the only way I’d ever be able to get back the money they’d taken.”
Signal put the Indian guest workers to work in the yard alongside U.S. workers doing the same job — welding and fitting. The company claims it pays workers from India the same wages as domestic employees. The guest workers say they were promised $18 an hour, but many were paid only half that after the company said they were unqualified. Chandler says the company recruiter in India determined the workers knew their jobs during the process of hiring them.
The new ‘company town’
Out of their wages, workers pay an additional $35 per day to stay in a labor camp Signal set up inside the yard. “The conditions are very bad here for the H2B workers,” Joseph says bitterly. “Twenty-four of us live in a room in a barracks that measures 12 feet by 18 feet, sleeping on bunk beds. There are two toilets for all of us and only four sinks. We have to get up at 3:30 in the morning, just so all of us have time to use the bathroom before going to work.”
Fired for meeting
A month ago, the Indian guest workers began meeting in a local church to discuss how they might get the company to refund the huge sums they paid to come to the U.S., and to protest the bad conditions. They organized a group, Signal H2B Workers United. It was after the company found out, they say, that it accused workers of being unqualified for their jobs and cut their pay. Eight were told they were completely incapable, and Signal announced it was sending them back to India immediately. Joseph was fired. “I am now terminated because I attended the meeting,” he says. “That’s what the company vice-president told me.”
Indian H2B workers from Signal International, LLC, marine fabrication company meet at a Pascagoula hall to strategize how to present their demands against substandard living and working conditions, March 4. MIRA photo.
Signal International President Dick Marler told the Mississippi Press that although workers had been employed since December, the company only discovered recently that they had no skills. Federal law required the company to fire them, he asserted.
Signal did not return calls for this story, but a statement on the company web site says the workers “receive the same pay and are taxed the same as all other Signal craft personnel. Workers from India have a reputation for being pleasant and hard-working.” It quotes Marler, who says, “We are fortunate the U.S. government has such a program that allows us to supplement our workforce during a time of emergency created by hurricanes.”
Deportations, company lock-up
When the company announced the terminations, one worker disappeared. Another, Sabu Lal, slashed his wrists and was taken to the Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula. He told the Mississippi Press that dying would be better than being sent home.
“Lal and I are from the same place in India,” Joseph explains. “I knew he had sold his home, and had no place to return to. He was only able to make back a small part of the thousands of dollars he paid to the recruiter, and he said he couldn’t go home like that.”
Company security guards locked the fired workers in what they call the TV room, and wouldn’t let them leave.
Their co-workers contacted the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, which went to the Pascagoula Police Department. The police went out to the yard and eventually freed the imprisoned workers. Outside the yard, dozens of workers and activists denounced the firings and mistreatment.
DANGER: Guest worker programs
“We’ve learned about case after case of workers in Mississippi, Louisiana and all along the gulf in these conditions,” Chandler says. “There are thousands of guest workers who have been brought in since Katrina and subjected to this same treatment. Mexican guest workers in Amelia, La., were held in the same way. They also got organized, and came to Pascagoula to support the workers here when they heard what happened.”
Signal International plant in Pascagoula, MS. MIRA photo.
According to Chandler, Signal imported hundreds of workers from Peru a year ago, and after sending them home, brought the present group of guest workers from India to replace them. He says the experience of these workers highlights the problems inherent in proposals introduced into Congress over the last two years, which would set up similar schemes for the importation of as many as 400,000 guest workers per year.
“Organizations that are fighting for the rights of workers and advocating on behalf of workers should be totally opposed to these kind of programs,” he says. “The conditions that people work in here are so exploitative they’re worse than the conditions for even undocumented workers.”
The Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance and the Southern Poverty Law Center plan to go to court to stop the deportations. Meanwhile, workers say they are determined to continue challenging the company until the money they paid the contractor is returned to them.
Whatever your thinking, know this as a fact, this information was out there a full year ago and the suppressive corporate media didn't acknowledge it.
It is us against them, at so many levels. Turn off the damn TV and get to learning.
We knew about the abuses in New Orleans, the facts are never reported on, just take a look at the article at Union review published by Chuck Lazette in Sept 0f 2007, entitled "In the Lawless Post-Katrina Cleanup, Construction Companies Are Preying on Workers", and its further backed by a comment I found on the upcoming attack on the guest commentary found in the NaplesNews that was published on Labor Day in 2007 about unionized teachers entitled "Labor Day ’07: Union bosses’ agenda scary", by corporate lobbyist, and the mind behind "The Center For Union Facts" and other disillusioning bullshit against the people of America, Rick Berman. Here is the counter "attack" and I use the terms loosely, because Mr.Charlie Ward uses FACTS in his comment.
More for Rick Berman: Why didn't the Right to Work Committee defend the rights of the American workers in Louisianna(which is, after all, a right to work state? Recently, the State of Arizona (which is also a right to work state), passed legislation stating that businesses can not hire illegal workers, and illegals can not own businesses. These illegals are leaving Arizona by hundreds a day, selling their houses, leaving for other states or heading back to their homeland. The U.S. workers of Arizona have had enough of their wages being undermined and demanded change--and they got it. Guess who is challenging this new law? The United States Chamber of Commerce. Where is the outrage by you and the Right To Work Committee? Union membership in Arizona has grown by 30% in the past two years. One wonders why. With respect to The Employee Free Choice Act,tell the truth. The glitch in the bill that you and the Right to Work Committee object to is not the way a union is voted in.(card vs. secret vote--they are both legal and valid, and it is diversionary to assert that this is the issue. The issue really is that this bill would stop management from stalling for time and finding bogus reasons not to sit down and negotiate--just as you and the Right to Work Committee assert that unions use this tactic to slow down a decertification process. What is really not wanted is the clause that would require a federal mediator to step in if management and the union representation can not come together, and any employer who commits unfair labor practices shall be fined $20,000.00 for each violation. Thus far it has been passed by the House and it is up to the Senate. They are being lobbied strongly against this bill---by you know who. You are correct, unions do lobby and donate to politicians that they perceive will help them with their issues. As you know,all union members have the right to use the Beck Right Law, which states that they can request that none of their dues be used for political interests to which they do not subscribe. It's a law. Conversely, anti- union organizations and businesses also lobby strongly and donate heavily for support of their interests. So, where's the beef? It's politics. Right now, the NLRB is stacked with anti-union people, mostly Republicans. And yes, you are right, if the Democrats win, the pendulum will swing the other way. That, too, is politics as usual. The only thing The Right to Work Committee has done has been to assure that an individual does not have to join a union or pay dues, even if there is a union in their workplace. But they have done their best to undermine labor laws for all workers: i.e. minimun wage, overtime laws, OSHA and reduced workmans comp entitlements , which have been reduced as much as 50% in some right to work states already, and other laws which protect the rights of workers both union and non-union. In closing, Mr. Berman, I would like to say that with all the faults unions have, they have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, education, betterment of all races, and for the developing of character in man than any other association of men. Clarence DarrowOne more note about Labor Day, according to WIN, Workers Independent News Radio on 3-14-08 "The Department of Transportation came under fire by Senator Byron Dorgan on Tuesday over a controversial “pilot program” that allows Mexican trucks to operate on US roads.", that program, which is Illegally being funded by Mary Peters DOT, was being pushed into operation directly by President Bush to have had a start date of Labor Day 2007.
Remember, before there is profit, there is labor. Abraham Lincoln (Republican President)
Happy Labor Day. Charlie
There is a war against the workers here in the United States and using Labor Day to push our faces in it is showing you just how brazen they are. I don't think if you add all the facts you could come to any other conclusion. Rick Berman, who this site got it's name from, has now launched a new agenda, to find the worst unionized teacher, in the same week here in New York the United Federation of Teachers is fighting for the city to keep its funding for students. Yeah those bad teachers fighting for kids. What a bunch of bullies.