2013-03-07 from [www.sf-post.com]:
2013-02-21 "N.C. action in solidarity with Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino workers"
by Hanalei Ramos from "Worker's World" [http://www.workers.org/2013/02/21/n-c-solidarity-with-grand-isle-shipyard-filipino-workers/]:
Durham, N.C. — During the rush-hour commute on Feb. 21, organizers gathered at the Exxon gas station on Raleigh Road in Chapel Hill, N.C., to demand that the corporation discontinue their relationship with Grand Isle Shipyard. Exxon, BP, Shell and Unocal all avail of the service of Grand Isle Shipyard, the oil company responsible for the deaths of three Filipino workers this past November 2012 and the exploitation of hundreds more.
Jonna Baldres of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and the Philippine Forum provided a background on the exploitative conditions and the campaign to obtain justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipinos. Yves Nibungco, a national steering committee member of the “Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers,” urged the communities in North Carolina to take action, particularly calling on Exxon to stop availing the services of Grand Isle Shipyard. He also urged the community to call Congressperson Richard Hudson of North Carolina [202-225-3715], who is a member of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, to investigate the inhumane working conditions and unfair labor practices of the Grand Isle Shipyard and Black Elk Energy.
During the Feb. 21 mobilization, Donna Dewitt, co-chairperson of the Southern Workers Assembly, supported the campaign of the GIS Filipino Workers, connecting the struggles of U.S. workers and the migrant Filipino workers. Dewitt related: “Guestworkers face particularly challenging labor conditions, as their visa is tied to continued employment with an individual employer, creating a huge imbalance of power. Similar to other U.S. workers, whether citizens, legal residents or undocumented, these workers have been denied the most basic labor rights due to the greed of a company that put profits over people.”
Justin Flores of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee drew connections between the local struggles of migrant Latino/a workers on local tobacco farms in North Carolina and the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino workers in Louisiana. Flores stated: “We know that what happened at Grand Isle is a logical conclusion of a system that leaves workers without rights. This is what happens when workers can’t complain on the job; this is what happens when workers can’t collectively bargain; and this is what happens when workers’ only way of staying in the country is by maintaining a single employer. We know what it means when U.S. laws don’t mean anything in rural Mexico or the Philippines. We know that the sending countries are fine with it as long as the remittances come back into the country. I’m glad that my brothers and sisters don’t see Grand Isle Shipyard as just one company, but as part of a broken system from Louisiana to North Carolina.”
Later that night, Kasama, a Filipino student organization at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, assembled a forum to discuss the Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers Campaign.
Caroline Jurado, co-leader and treasurer of Kasama, said: “I think Filipino youth should support the Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Campaign because we are the people who will pave the way to our future. We’re not only fighting for the Filipino workers at Grand Isle, but for our working rights as well. Our family and relatives traveled abroad once too, whether it was in the United States or elsewhere, in hopes of bettering their lives and ours. By supporting this campaign we are ensuring that their hopes will come true and bring the fair and just treatment that our fellow Filipinos and other overseas workers deserve now and in generations to come.”
Forty audience members packed the forum. Among the attendees were members of the North Carolina Student Power Union; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1208, Smithfield Foods of Tarheel, N.C.; SWA; FLOC; UNC-CH Student Action with Workers; and the Durham branch of Workers World Party. The forum ended with a solidarity message from the attendees saying: “North Carolina supports the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino workers! Makibaka! Huwag matakot!” (Join the struggle, don’t be afraid!)
Caravans from Chicago; New York City; New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; and the Miami area will be converging in New Orleans to support the struggle of the GIS Filipino workers, as part of a national fact-finding and solidarity mission for these workers. Caravan participants will gather the experiences of the Filipino workers who were trafficked and abused by Grand Isle Shipyard and DNR Offshore Crewing Services, as well as doing outreach to workers who can join the class action lawsuit, initiated by exploited workers, against Grand Isle Shipyard.
For more information about the “Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers” Campaign, visit j4gisfilipinoworkers.wordpress.com; and for the full statement of the SWA, visit southernworker.org.
Feb. 21, Durham, N.C. Photo: Dominique Liwanag
Feb. 21, Durham, N.C. Photo: Dominique Liwanag
2013-02-06 "MIGRANTE Northern California Workers Stand In Solidarity with Filipino Workers and Victims of Grand Isle Shipyard in New Orleans"
by Mario De Mira from "MIGRANTE Northern California" [http://filipinocc.org/2013/02/11/migrante-northern-california-workers-stand-in-solidarity-with-filipino-workers-and-victims-of-grand-isle-shipyard-in-new-orleans/]:
In November 2012, an explosion on a Gulf Coast oil platform, owned by Black Elk Energy and staffed by Grand Isle Shipyards (GIS), Inc., claimed the lives of three Filipino migrant workers not far from New Orleans, Louisiana. Following the deaths of the migrant workers, 100 or more employees of GIS have filed a lawsuit against the corporation and others reporting a range of horrific working conditions from millions of dollars in wage theft, inhumane work hours, substandard living facilities, illegal recruiting, and threats of deportation, to name a few. (Please, visit http://j4gisfilipinoworkers.wordpress.com/ for more information.)
In our organization, we have members who were also victims of labor trafficking in similar industries in the different parts of the US. Now our members who escaped these tragic circumstances are working in other unstable industries such as domestic and caregiving work. For this reason MIGRANTE Nor Cal are in spirit with the workers of GIS as we come from the same exploitative conditions.
We believe the lethargic response of the Philippine consulate to the campaign for justice for the deceased workers and current workers is deplorable. We want to highlight that the Philippine government has, in the past, sought out opportunities to broker Filipino workers to multinational corporations like GIS. And although the GIS case highlights workers’ vulnerability and exploitation, the Philippine government and its representation by Ambassador Jose Cuisia, continues to entertain business with exploitative corporations such as GIS.While migrants abroad are hailed as heroes of our homeland, the Philippines, our dignity and protection by the Philippine government is repeatedly neglected and discarded.
The members of Migrante Northern California extend our solidarity to the victims of the Black Elk Explosion and to the Filipino workers at Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS) in New Orleans, Louisiana. As migrant Filipino workers here in the US, we are calling for all Filipinos to unite and advance the campaign to seek justice for the victims of the Black Elk Explosion. We will not stand by as the legacy of slavery and discrimination continues with a different set of imported migrant workers from the Philippines or any other country, and we support local workers in their struggle to have more voices at work and in their communities as well.
We, Migrante Northern California, will join a fact-finding mission led by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) on February 22-25, 2013 in New Orleans to deepen our understanding of the experiences of Filipino migrant workers within GIS.We call out to the other Filipino workers at GIS to step forward and join the fight initiated by 17 workers, but now including over 100 former employees, with the class action suit against the harsh conditions, oppression, and exploitation suffered at the hands of GIS and DNR Resources among others. We also call out to the broader Filipino community, members of the church, regional associations, youth and students and professional Filipinos to join the campaign for “Justice for the GIS Filipino Workers” because all of us are or have had family members who have been migrant workers.
Justice for Filipino Grand Isle Shipyard Workers!
Justice for all migrant workers!
Migrante Northern California stands with Filipino GIS Workers!
2013-03-01 "FILIPINO ACTIVISTS CONCLUDE FACT-FINDING MISSION IN LOUISIANA"
by Henni Espinosa from "ABS-CBN North America Bureau", with a report by Don Tagala [http://www.balitangamerica.tv/filipino-activists-conclude-fact-finding-mission-in-louisiana/]:
SAN FRANCISCO – An activist group that looked into the plight of Filipino workers at Grand Isle Shipyard in New Orleans has returned to San Francisco with disturbing findings.
Members of the group called Justice for Filipino Grand Isle Shipyard Workers Campaign allege that since 2008, Grand Isle Shipyard has reportedly trafficked about 500 workers from the Philippines with promises of visas, pay above $16/hour and quality jobs as welders, scaffolders and pipefitters. Upon their arrival however, the workers were only paid five dollars an hour for working up to 14 hours a day, up to seven days a week, sometimes up to four months straight with no overtime pay.
The activists said the workers also dealt with unreasonable deductions in their pay that went into housing, as they were made to pay up to $3,000 per month for a bunk bed. They also claimed that the company stole the workers’ tax refunds.
“Several dozen of them have now been granted T-visas. As victims of human trafficking, this vindicates the stories they’ve been telling about how they’ve been recruited and trafficked from the Philippines,” said Terry Valen, chair of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
While in Louisiana, Valen and other activists held a protest against Grand Isle Shipyard and the workers’ recruiters , after more details of ill-treatment and discrimination of the Filipino workers were revealed.
“What they said was that they were being treated differently from their American coworkers. They are mostly Catholic, like many Filipinos. But they were not allowed to practice it. They were not allowed to go to Church in the New Orleans area,” Valen said.
While in Louisiana, the activists organized a freedom ride, a 21-car caravan that drove through New Orleans, demanding justice for the Filipino shipyard workers.
While a number of the Filipino workers have decided to sue their employer, about 160 of them have chosen to stay silent.
They said these workers continue to work at Grand Isle Shipyard despite their dire situation there.
The advocates plan to bring the stories of the Grand Isle Shipyard workers when they go to Washington DC and meet with legislators next month.
They said the only way human trafficking and modern-day slavery to stop — is for the federal government to step up and sanction companies perpetrating them. They also want President Obama to eliminate what they call the exploitative guest workers programs as part of immigration reform.
Meantime, in Louisiana, Filipino workers who filed a class action lawsuit against Grand Isle Shipyard petitioned the court to cite in contempt their former employers.
Court records obtained by Balitang America show that since the order, Grand Isle Shipyard has allegedly intimidated the Filipino workers, by reportedly ignoring or denying their requests for employment certifications and verifications.
Those who filed the lawsuit claim they are also being threatened with job abandonment and deportation.
Grand Isle Shipyard has earlier filed a separate motion to modify a protective order with sanctions, alleging that some of the workers violated a court order by providing interviews to media.
You may contact Henni Espinosa at email@example.com for more information.
Video from "TFC Balitang America" [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjnZUoFSqBs]:
Members of the Justice for Filipino Grand Isle Shipyard Workers Campaign are now back from their fact-finding mission to New Orleans last week. This group of Filipino-American activists talked to Filipino workers who are allegedly victims of modern-day slavery and abuse. What did the discover from that trip?