Conditions of Workers
Highly skilled Filipino workers were trafficked by Grand Isle Shipyards (GIS) from the Philippines with promises of visas, pay above $16/hour, and quality jobs as welders, scaffolders, and pipe-fitters. These promises were not kept for the Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS) workers in Louisiana. The reality of the situation for the Filipino migrant workers amounted to modern-day slavery along the Gulf Coast in the American South.
GIS profited handsomely by violating the basic rights of these Filipino migrantworkers. The workers were paid just about $5/hour for working 10-14 hours/day, 6-7 days/week, sometimes up to 4 months straight with no overtime pay. Workers also experienced ridiculous deductions for housing ranging from $1000 to $3000 per month for a bunk bed, and the company also fraudulently stole workers’ tax refunds.
Migrant workers were housed in cramped quarters (10×10 ft. rooms with 4-6 workers per room), not allowed the freedom to leave the GIS compound, and were even restricted from practicing their religious faith. Workers were subjected to a 10pm curfew, bunkhouse lockdowns, constant surveillance from the 23 cameras in the bunkhouse and restriction of their movement and communication with the outside world, even while they were not working. If they did not follow these rules, they were threatened by GIS management with termination and deportation back to the Philippines.
Black Elk Explosion
GIS put the Filipinos to work on an oil production platform owned by Black Elk Energy – a company that had racked up 315 documented “incidents of safety non-compliance” offshore since 2010 according to federal regulators. On November 16, 2012 three Filipino workers died when the Black Elk Energy platform exploded, and three others were seriously injured. The incident brought increased attention to the practice of American companies hiring foreign guestworkers for potentially hazardous and unsafe jobs and the abuses and exploitation that often comes from such arrangements.