ACTIVISTS PROTEST SHIPYARD COMPANY’S ALLEGED WORK ABUSE

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Feb 26, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – Dozens of Filipino-American activists rallied in front of the San Francisco Consulate last night, to express support for Filipino workers of the Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS) who are allegedly victims of human trafficking.

These activists claim GIS trafficked highly-skilled Filipino workers from the Philippines, bringing them to Louisiana with promises of visas, pay above $16 an hour and jobs as welders, scaffolders and pipe fitters.

But the workers claim those promises were not kept.

Mara Ibarra of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) said, “We need to come together and make noise as a community, otherwise the rest of the world will not know about these abuses.”

The activists said GIS profited greatly by violating the basic rights of Filipino migrant workers. They claim the workers were paid only $5 an hour, working up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, for up to four months straight with no overtime pay.

These activists said workers also had to pay up to $3,000 a month for housing, but were only given bunk beds.

GIS also allegedly failed to protect the three Filipino workers, who died in an oil rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana last November 16.

Jack Stephens of the San Francisco Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines said, “We really want President Obama to know that these are the type of atrocities within the guest worker program.”

During the rally, these activists applauded Filipino workers who joined a class action suit against GIS and a recruitment agency to fight the alleged abuses.

From 17 workers, close to 100 workers have now joined the suit, and the workers are hoping for more workers to break their silence and come forward.

Nelly Gonzales of the People’s Association of Workers and Immigrants said, “They should no longer be afraid. If they continue to stay silent, the abuses will just continue.”

They said for the abuses to stop for all migrant workers, the government need to step in.

The group plans to bring the plight of Filipino migrant workers through a caravan to Washington DC in March.

They said before Obama passes immigration reform, he needs to make sure that the existing conditions for workers are free from abuse.

You may contact Henni Espinosa at henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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