ADVOCATES TO CONDUCT PROBE AMONG FILIPINO WORKERS IN LOUSIANA

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Feb. 19, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – A group of San Francisco-based Filipino advocates from the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) will travel to New Orleans, Louisiana from February 22-25 to reach out to hundreds of alleged victims of human trafficking, through a fact-finding mission, as part of the “Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers campaign”, initiated by NAFCON, the Philippine Forum in New York, the Fellowship for Filipino Migrants in Chicago, the Filipino Community Center in San Francisco, the International Migrants Alliance-USA and the National Guest workers Alliance based in New Orleans.

Since 2008, they said more than 500 immigrant workers have been staffed by Grand Isle Shipyard.

Grand Isle Shipyard is the same company involved in the November 2012 oil rig explosion owned by Black Elk that claimed the lives of three Filipino migrant workers, not far from New Orleans.

NAFCON said highly-skilled workers have been trafficked by Grand Isle Shipyard from the Philippines, with promises of visas, wages above $16 an hour, and quality jobs as welders, scaffolders and pipe-fitters.

But instead, the group claims the workers were paid just $5 an hour for working from 10 to 14 hours/day, sometimes without days off, up to four months straight with no overtime pay.

The group said these immigrants also went through massive amounts of deductions for housing ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 per month for a bunk bed. Furthermore, advocates claimed the company fraudulently stole their tax refunds.

Terry Valen, chair of NAFCON said, “These conditions are happening to Filipino guest workers, migrant workers coming from the Philippines. So it’s important that we go there to find out about their stories. We’ve heard from many workers now.”

NAFCON said the companies involved need to be held accountable for the deplorable and harmful conditions these workers have faced. They are supporting over a hundred former employees of Grand Isle Shipyard, who filed a class action lawsuit against the corporation.

These advocates also want the Philippine government to step up and protect these immigrant workers. They also plan to bring their stories to U.S. lawmakers and the Obama administration to ensure the protection of migrant workers in the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year.

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

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