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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:34 AM
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Shipyard Workers Organize to Stop 21st Century Slavery

PASCAGOULA, Miss. - More than 100 workers, carrying signs reading I Am A Man, walked off the job at a Mississippi shipyard last week to protest conditions of slavery. Their struggle for justice comes 40 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., marched with striking Memphis sanitation workers carrying the same signs.

The shipyard workers who are from India have filed a class action suit against Signal International, a marine fabrication company; recruiters in India and the United States; and a New Orleans immigration lawyer, Malvern Burnett; accusing them of forced labor, human trafficking, fraud and civil rights violations.

The suit charges that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, more than 500 Indian men were trafficked into the United States through the federal governments H-2B guestworker program to provide labor and services . . . Plaintiffs were subjected to forced labor as welders, pipefitters, shipfitters, and other marine fabrication workers at Signal operations in Pascagoula, Mississippi and Orange, Texas.

At the walkout last Thursday, the workers symbolically threw their hardhats over the fence as they left the shipyard, media reported, and sang the civil rights anthem, We Shall Overcome.

Saket Soni of the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, who served as an interpreter for the workers, said they talk of living like pigs in a cage in a company-run work camp.

One of the workers, Sabulal Vijayan, tried to organize his fellow workers last year and was fired. He then attempted suicide.

The exploitation began in 2006 when recruiters in New Orleans and Bombay, together with Signal, a Northrop Grumman subcontractor, used the post-Katrina labor shortage in the Gulf Coast to create a trafficking racket within the guest worker program that President Bush wants to expand, the Workers Center said in a news release. Workers paid up to $20,000 to get jobs in the United States.

They promised us green cards and permanent residency, and instead gave us 10-month visas and made us live like animals in company trailers, 24 to a room, Vijayan said. We were trapped between an ocean of debt at home and constant threats of deportation from our bosses in Mississippi.

When the workers began to organize last year, Signal sent armed guards to detain and fire the organizers, the Workers Center said.

The lawsuit, filed by the Louisiana Justice Institute, Southern Poverty Law Center and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, charges violations of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act; the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO); the Civil Rights Act of 1866; the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871; and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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 Soni. This is precisely what is happening on the Gulf Coast.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctions to prevent future exploitation of workers. While the court action moves forward, the workers pledge to continue more demonstrations to call attention to the treatment of workers on the Gulf Coast. /

This report is adapted from information on, the blog of the South Asian journalists association, and .

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mac2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:47 AM
Response to Original message
1. You're going to tell me they couldn't find locals to do the job?
This is a good example of plantation type mentality of our government. They import slaves since locals are too expensive for Bush,Inc. They profit off us. This is union breaking tactics.

This is an example of the world's desperate over populated people in the world...exploitation for profit.

How about some new union leaders American workers?

Even police may be imported by these Neo Cons with the excuse they can't find enough workers.
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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 06:56 AM
Response to Original message
2. K&R

Great post. Thanks.

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oscarmitre Donating Member (330 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 07:16 AM
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3. K n R
This deserves to go to the front of the site.
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FreakinDJ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 08:02 AM
Response to Original message
4. As if Mississippi wages weren't depressed enough
They bring in even Lower paid foreign workers and them treat them worse then they are treated in their own country.

Companies like that need to be barred from doing business in America
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bonito Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 08:20 PM
Response to Original message
5. K&R from an ex shipyard worker where condos now stand.
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malaise Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 08:45 PM
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6. This is profound
I don't know if you know the origin of the statement "Am I not a Man and a Brother". The Quaker Abolitionists designed this seal.
Members of the Society of Friends, informally known as Quakers, were among the earliest leaders of the abolitionist movement in Britain and the Americas. By the beginning of the American Revolution, Quakers had moved from viewing slavery as a matter of individual conscience, to seeing the abolition of slavery as a Christian duty.

Quakers, who believe in simplicity in all things, tended to view the arts as frivolous; but when the Quaker-led Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade met in London in 1787, three of its members were charged with preparing a design for "a Seal be engraved for the use of this Society."

Lovely post.
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superkia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 09:10 PM
Response to Original message
7. Once bushie creates another false flag and calls for martial...
law, it will be whoever they want it to be working like slaves.


The following =Executive Orders=, now recorded in the Federal
Register, and therefore accepted by Congress as the law of the
land, can be put into effect at any time an emergency is declared:

10995--All communications media seized by the Federal Government.
10997--Seizure of all electrical power, fuels, including
gasoline and minerals.
10998--Seizure of all food resources, farms and farm equipment.
10999--Seizure of all kinds of transportation, including your
personal car, and control of all highways and seaports.
11001--Federal takeover of all health, education and welfare.
11002--Postmaster General empowered to register every man, woman
and child in the U.S.A.
11003--Seizure of all aircraft and airports by the Federal
11004--Housing and Finance authority may shift population from
one locality to another. Complete integration.
11005--Seizure of railroads, inland waterways, and storage facilities.
11051--The Director of the Office of Emergency Planning authorized
to put Executive Orders into effect in "times of increased
international tension or financial crisis". He is also to
perform such additional functions as the President
may direct.
11000--Seizure of all civilians for work under Federal supervision.
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starroute Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 09:24 PM
Response to Original message
8. Raw Story covered this last year
That April 2007 article gave a good basic rundown on the situation -- but it concluded that "while H-2B workers are technically covered by wage protections, its practically impossible for them to sue." I am so glad to see that this suit is going forward now despite the obstacles.

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pepperbear Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 12:41 AM
Response to Original message
9. and the worst thing is: imagine that this was probably set during the days running up to katrina..
all they had to do was await the big payoff.
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