Exploitation of Filipino Workers Based in USA

By on April 30, 2013

Exploitation of Filipino Workers Based in USA

Filipino workers at the Grand Isle Shipyard based in New Orleans Louisiana are joining a class action lawsuit because of alleged abusive treatment they feel they have suffered from their employers.

The shipyard supplied workers to a oil production platform owned by a U.S. company called Black Elk Energy.   This company has racked up several documented cases on non-compliance safety incidents.  Most recently, in November 2012 three Filipino workers were seriously injured and three were killed following an explosion on a poorly built platform while working in the Gulf of Mexico.

This brought attention to the practice of U.S. companies who hire foreign guest workers for hazardous jobs. This is an increasingly growing problem.  In most cases the worker is in significant debt in order to obtain the job and then is forced to work only for the company that sponsored their visa.  If they find the company to practices unsafe conditions, they have no choice but to work. Protesting is not an option.  Being sent back to the Philippines was a constant threat to any worker who dared to raise a protest.

Filipino workers were promised a safe working environment along with high pay.  What they got was sleep deprivation from being forced to work 140 hours in fourteen days straight.  Many were placed on dangerous oil rig platforms that U.S. workers by law could not work on because of the unsafe conditions.  They were also purportedly made to sleep in company quarters, cramming six people into one small room.  These quarters were surrounded by barbed wire fencing and when the Filipino workers were relieved of their passports, they felt trapped.  They were watched by closed circuit monitors and forced to pay between $1,000 to $3,000 dollars a month for their single bunk bed.  They were not allowed to talk or associate with their Americans co-workers and were only allowed one trip to Wal-Mart per week.  To add insult to injury they were not allowed to attend any type of religious service whatsoever.  In many cases after working on the oil platforms, they were required to do personal cleaning work including yard work and car washing of the company managers.

In addition taxes were taken out of their check to an extreme case. $1,000 per month were taken out of their check for taxes that neither the IRS nor the state of Louisiana can show was actually paid.  Workers ended up with making only a dollar or two an hour for all their hard physical labor.  Along with a monetary award settlement, former Gulf Island Shipyard workers were acknowledged as being human trafficking victims and were granted a human trafficking visa which lets them remain in the United States.  They may do so up to four years under this T visa.

As more light is being shed upon this ever increasing problem, labor and community leaders along with religious organizations are visiting these exploited workers to help bring an end to these practices.  A protest march is planned that will begin at the shipyard and end in the New Orleans

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