Media Advisory for March 17 and March 18
Contact: Katrina Abarcar (202) 656-0739
DC Community Organizations Host Forum on US Modern Day Slaves –
Filipino Guestworkers Exploited by Grand Isle Shipyard
On March 17 and 18, local organizers for the Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers campaign will organize public activities including a forum and picket to support Filipino migrant workers who have died or were injured or exploited while working for Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS). The attention to the November 16, 2012 Black Elk Energy Co. oil rig explosion, which killed three Filipino migrant workers and wounded several others, brought to light a federal lawsuit filed by former Filipino guestworkers charging GIS of abusive and exploitative working conditions akin to slavery
In addition to being made to work under unsafe conditions, the migrant workers alleged that they were paid approximately $5/ hour for 10-14 hour days with no overtime. Their pay was also deducted $1000- $3000/ month for employer housing that consisted of 4-6 workers sharing a single 10 feet by 10 feet room. Bunkhouse lockdowns, a 10:00 PM curfew, constant surveillance from security cameras, and limited communication with the outside world were also enforced. Workers also endured discriminatory practices from their employer such as restrictions on religious practices and threats of termination and deportation if workers failed to comply with their employer’s strict rules.
In light of the tragic Black Elk explosion, GIS Filipino migrant workers and their families have spoken out against the flagrant abuses and injustices they’ve suffered. Their campaign has garnered national attention and is continuing to gain momentum.
Several national organizations, including the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) , International Migrants Alliance-USA, and the National Guestworker Alliance, answered the workers request to help make their struggle public. They organized a “Solidarity and Fact Finding Mission” in New Orleans in February that brought around 50 supporters from across the U.S. and dozens more from the Louisiana area to show their solidarity with the struggling workers.
In the DC area, Katarungan (Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines) and ILAW (Igniting Leadership and Action With Women), have taken up the call and are helping bring their issue to the nation’s capital.
“It is especially timely to highlight this issue with the current discussion around immigration reform.” states Joanna Quiambao of ILAW. “There is a lot of talk on the need to secure the borders but what about the workplace? In our eyes, it is not migrants crossing borders that are the biggest threats to secure, well-paying jobs in the U.S. It is employers that violate our laws and the rights of migrant workers so they can rake in the largest profits possible.”
Katarungan and ILAW will also be organizing a picket in front of the Philippine Embassy calling for the Philippine Ambassador Cuisia’s resignation. The call highlights these organizations’ view that the Embassy has done little to protect Filipino workers as shown in the lack of support of former GIS Filipino workers and other Filipino migrant workers in dire need of help in the U.S.
“With all due respect to the Ambassador, when lives are on the line and allegations of trafficking and slavery are exposed, simply dropping your calling cards and waiting for distressed migrants and their lawyers to feed you information is not acceptable,” states Dr. Dante Simbulan, advisor of Katarungan. “As is the case with the continuing killing of social activists and advocates in the Philippines, giving lip service, and taking half measures after deaths have occurred, is not only reprehensible, it also smacks of injustice and provides little comfort to the victims and their families. We demand a leadership that is proactive and aggressive in protecting and defending the rights of Filipino migrant workers!”
The scheduled events are as follows:
Sunday, March 17, 2013
4:00pm to 7:00pm – Community Forum and Sharing, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1525 Newton Ave
Monday, March 18, 2013
11:30 – Picket in Front of the Philippine Embassy, 1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20036
** For more information on the community forum and rally, contact Pia Rivera at firstname.lastname@example.org**