Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity
Fighting International Human Labor Trafficking after Katrina
The Alliance is an association of guestworkers from different companies that have joined together in a fight for dignity. Workers support one another in the struggle for fair treatment on the job and for justice on an international level not only for H2B workers but for all workers.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of guest workers were brought to the Gulf Coast. Workers in Latin America and Asia were sold false promises at a high cost. Recruiters promised steady jobs, fair pay, great conditions, visa extensions, and even permanent legal status. Workers plunged their families into debt to buy an American dream. When they arrived they found that it was just that – a dream. All of the promises made to them were false. They were welcomed to
terrible conditions and no protection. And, according to the terms of their visas, they could only work for one employer. As one guest worker said to another in New Orleans: “Bienvenidos a los esclavos unidos!” (Welcome to the United Slaves).
Below is the Alliance of Guestworkers request to the Department of Labor on behalf of Guestworkers effected by the British Petroleum Oil Disaster:
New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice
217 N. Prieur St., (504) 309-5165
New Orleans, Louisiana 70112
ALLIANCE OF GUESTWORKERS FOR DIGNITY
July 9, 2010
VIA EMAIL AND REGULAR MAIL
Acting Wage and Hour Administrator
U.S. Department of Labor
Frances Perkins Building
200 Constitution Ave.
NW, Washington, DC 20210
Facsimile: (202) 693-6111
RE: Protecting Guestworkers Facing Loss of Income in Relation to the Deepwater Horizon Incident
Dear Administrator Leppink:
I write on behalf of the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity and its members. The Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity, a grassroots project of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, is a national membership organization working across sector to protect the rights of all workers- both guestworkers and U.S. workers- employed in industries using the H-2B program and to promote just and dignified migration and work.
Our outreach and reports from our membership show that increasing numbers of guestworkers employed in the Deepwater Horizon Incident zone in various sectors are facing termination or reduced hours in violation of their contracts. See e.g. Mark Schleifstein,” Gulf Oil Spill Only the Latest Environmental Battle Waged in Lake Pontchartrain”, The Times Picayune (discussing the impending lay-off of 70 guestworkers from Mexico currently employed in crabmeat picking in Slidell).
Furthermore, guestworkers are being terminated or employed for reduced hours without appropriate compensation.
As the Department is aware, guestworkers are among the most vulnerable low-wage workers. Our members have reported that termination mid-contract and/or reduced hours has resulted in their inability to pay debts related to obtaining the guestworker jobs and inability to provide basic food, housing, and medical bills for their families.
Insofar as the compensation should come from BP, guestworkers must rely on their employers to inform them of and facilitate this process. Many employers are instead terminating guestworkers mid-contract and directing them to return to their home countries without any compensation from the employer or information or records necessary to seek compensation from BP.
For news articles written about the Alliance, click here.