BAYAN-USA Offers Support and Solidarity for New Orleans Mission to Demand Justice for Trafficked Filipino Oil Rig Workers

For Immediate Release
February 21, 2013

Reference: Jessica Antonio, Secretary General, BAYAN-USA, secgen@bayanusa.org

BAYAN-USA Offers Support and Solidarity for New Orleans Mission to Demand Justice for Trafficked Filipino Oil Rig Workers

New Orleans, LA – From February 22-25, representatives of the progressive Filipino alliance BAYAN-USA will be joining over 40 delegates from all around the U.S. to conduct a fact finding and solidarity mission in New Orleans, Louisiana, as part of the Justice for the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers (J4GISFW) campaign. They plan to interview Filipino oil rig workers about their experiences of labor trafficking and dangerous working conditions. These workers are joined by over 100 other Filipino workers in a class action lawsuit against their former employer Grand Isle Shipyard–a labor supply corporation based in Galliano, Louisiana–for charges of wage theft, labor trafficking, human rights abuses, racism, and discrimination.

“In the midst of high-profile talks about U.S. immigration reform, this fact finding mission will expose and oppose the U.S. immigration system for what it truly really is,” states Jackelyn Mariano, Deputy Secretary General of BAYAN-USA, who has joined the mission. “It is a deliberately broken system that neglects the rights and welfare of migrant workers as well as American labor in order to produce corporate super-profits.”

Since 2005, Grand Isle Shipyard has been colluding with D&R Resources, Inc., a labor recruitment agency based in the Philippines, to attract droves of skilled Filipino workers, including welders, pipefitters, and scaffolders into the United States. Often, workers are trafficked under fraudulent contracts that promise high pay and safe working conditions. In reality, many workers were placed to work on dangerous oil rig platforms in the Gulf of Mexico run by companies that are guilty of hundreds of labor violations. One such company is Black Elk Energy, which is responsible for a platform explosion on November 16, 2012 that killed three Filipino workers and severely injured three others. In addition, Filipino workers face grueling 14-hour days for as little pay as $5 per hour without overtime.

“The plight of these workers is part of a larger systemic problem. The exploitative immigration system of the U.S. works hand-in-hand with the corrupt Labor Export Policy of the Philippines to maintain a steadily increasing flow of cheap, temporary migrant labor,” continued Mariano. “It is clear that U.S. corporations are only interested in wringing Filipinos dry of their labor, then sending them back home once they’re done with them. In the same light, the Philippine government offers no support for these workers’ conditions, as long as they continue to send remittances home to support the chronically dwindling Philippine economy.”

BAYAN-USA is particularly critical of U.S. guestworker programs, which have historically bound workers to only one employer at a time and limited their options to find decent, steady work. Guestworkers are often legally brought into the country by an employer, but may lose legal status once their employer becomes uninterested in their services. Companies that exploit this source of cheap labor put American workers at a disadvantage, who are competing for jobs with their migrant counterparts.

“It is a shame that President Obama wishes to expand guestworker programs. Truly comprehensive immigration reform must address the needs of all workers across the board instead of pitting them against each other and criminalizing migrants,” Mariano said. “President Obama’s push to increase border enforcement does not address the root problems of the crisis of joblessness. It erases the reality of U.S. economic, political, and military intervention in migrant workers’ homelands that creates conditions to displace workers in the first place.”

In addition to the interviews, this weekend mission includes a public forum, solidarity concert, and mobilization to LaFitte, which is the site of Manila Village. This is the first settlement of Filipinos in the U.S. who escaped from the Spanish Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade in the 1700’s. For more information about the J4GISFW campaign, please visit http://www.j4gisfilipinoworkers.wordpress.com.

BAYAN-USA calls on all Filipinos, workers, and human rights defenders to take a stand against human trafficking and labor violations by getting involved in this campaign. Actions will coincide with the New Orleans mission in various U.S. cities to urge the Philippine government to take a proactive role regarding this case, including in:

Los Angeles
Friday, February 22, 2013, 12:00PM
Rally in front of the Philippine Consulate
3600 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Contact: Theresa Jaranilla, Southwest Regional Coordinator, BAYAN-USA, (213) 373-5154

San Francisco
Monday, February 25, 2013, 4:00-5:00PM
Rally in front of the Philippine Consulate
447 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA
Contact: Darah Macaraeg, Staff Member, BAYAN-USA, (707) 334-1566

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BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 18 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org.