Filipino Workers Unchained: Trafficked and Abused Victims Form Support Group Called FAST – Filipinos Against Slavery and Trafficking

 
For Immediate Release
March 2, 2013
Contact: Katrina Abarcar
Phone Number: 202-656-0739
February 23, 2013 - Members of newly formed support group, Filipinos Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAST).

February 23, 2013 – Members of newly formed support group, Filipinos Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAST).

To many in the U.S., slavery may seem like a thing of the past. However for a sizable number of immigrant and migrant workers in the country, slavery is alive and well.

Stories of trafficking and working under slave like conditions have become more and more common in the Filipino community. The November 16, 2012 explosion on the Black Elk Energy oil platform off the coast of Louisiana which killed 3 Filipino migrant workers and injured several more brought to light yet another group of workers claiming their employer, Grand Isle Shipyard, and recruiters had trafficked and subjected them to abusive and exploitative conditions akin to slavery.

Details of the alleged abuse were documented in a lawsuit filed by 17 former GIS Filipino migrant workers. There are currently almost 100 former GIS workers who joined the lawsuit.

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. They were 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.

“What’s most troubling is that these stories are not isolated. They are stories eerily similar to those told by countless other migrant workers that come here under these guestworker programs,” states Julia Camagong of the International Migrants Alliance – USA.

As a natural response, former GIS Filipino migrant workers formed the group FAST or Filipinos Against Slavery and Trafficking during the weekend of February 23.  It coincided with the activities of the “Solidarity and Fact Finding Mission” organized by the  Justice for GIS Filipino Workers campaign.

“We saw the need to come together to protect our rights and act. We have not been able to rely on the government and so we must rely on ourselves,” expressed Anne Beryl Corotan of the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns, one of the convening organizations of the weekend activities. “FAST is also unique because it has a base among Filipino Industrial workers, something not commonly seen in the Filipino community,” ends Corotan.

The motto of the newly formed group is “No one left behind.” FAST plans to become a member organization of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, the International Migrants Alliance and the National Guestworker Alliance.

Rodelio Maligo, a former GIS worker and founding member of FAST, said, “My father always told me, in The Bible, ‘Do not be afraid’ was written 365 times. And this is the message I would like to express to all of you. We should not be afraid. To all our workers, to all our co-workers, and everyone else, we should not be afraid, and we should keep on struggling.”

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Allies and Supporters of GIS Filipino Workers Take “Freedom Ride” from New Orleans to Lafitte, LA

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For Immediate Release
February 26, 2013
Contact: Katrina Abarcar
Phone Number: 202-656-0739
The “Kalayaan (Freedom) Riders” convened in front of Lafitte’s town hall at the Manila Village marker.

The “Kalayaan (Freedom) Riders” convened in front of Lafitte’s town hall at the Manila Village marker.

New Orleans, Louisiana – As the final activity of their Solidarity and Fact-Finding Mission, the Justice for Filpino Grand Isle Shipyard Workers campaign organized a “freedom ride” of their own to Lafitte, LA on Sunday, February 24.

The 21-car caravan drove through New Orleans to Lafitte bearing placards with demands that included justice for Filipino GIS workers, an end to the slavery and trafficking of migrant workers and guestworkers, an end to forced migration from the Philippines, and calls for Philippine Ambassador Cuisia to resign.  The “Kalayaan (Freedom) Riders” convened in front of Lafitte’s town hall at the Manila Village marker.

The crowd of about 100 was greeted by Dr. Carmelo Astilla who created the inscription commemorating one of the first settlements in the U.S. of Filipinos who escaped from forced labor on Spanish Galleon ships. Rev. Israel Alvaran, who gave a benediction, described the trip as a “pilgrimage where we remember those who have gone before us to fight for justice.”

Terry Valen, President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, expressed, “Today in 2013 we are still escaping slavery. We are still brave Filipinos, we are still proud Filipinos. It is through our organizing, our unity, and power across all communities that we will stop this from happening again.”

The day was described by other supporters of the campaign such as Daniel Castellanos of the National Guestworker Alliance as “a day of unity – the day we united to defeat all bad employers like GIS.” According to Alfred Morshew of STAND with Dignity, he came out to support his Filipino brothers “because it is one system oppressing Filipinos and African Americans.”

The caravan and program strengthened participants resolve to continue to build the campaign for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers.

“Unlike the Philippine government which has not done enough to address this issue, today is a sign of our commitment. We will not stop till justice is served for Filipino workers and all the exploited migrant workers here and around the world,“ Julia Camagong of the International Migrants Alliance-USA declared.

The program ended with “Bayan Ko” led by Pendong and Chat of Ang Grupong Pendong, and the crowd releasing 100 white balloons. Those balloons symbolized the more than 100 Filipino workers believed to still be working for Grand Isle Shipyardunder oppressive conditions who the conveners of the campaign hope to see “freed” through the strength of the campaign.

After the program, the caravan made an unplanned trip past a Grand Isle Shipyard site in Lafitte, and left placards with campaign slogans on the ground, including Filipinos Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAST), the newly formed workers organization in the area.

The next stop of the national campaign will be in Washington D.C. on March 17 and will include public forum(s) for the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia community as well as a mobilization in front of the Philippine Embassy to demand Ambassador Cuisia’s resignation.

Join BAYAN USA & NAFCON to Demand JUSTICE for the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers!

Join BAYAN USA & NAFCON to Demand JUSTICE for the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers!

When: Monday Feb. 25th
Where: Philippine Consulate – 447 Sutter Street, SF – Map it!
Time: 4pm-5pm

What: Over 500 trafficked Filipino migrant workers were brought to New Orleans, Louisiana, United States to work for the major oil exploration corporation Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS). GIS has numerous violations of workers rights, migrant rights, and human rights such as: labor abuse, wage theft and exploitation, unlawful deductions, isolation and violation of freedom of movement, violation of privacy, stolen tax refunds, violation of freedom of religion, threat of deportation, and unsafe working conditions.

The case of the Filipino workers against GIS has brought over 100 Filipino workers together to fight for their rights as workers and migrants, and has the potential to bring up to 500 Filipino workers together in a class action lawsuit against GIS. We STAND UP for Workers Rights, CHANT to make our voices Heard, and SING in Solidarity with the GIS Filipino workers fighting for migrant and workers rights for ALL!

Bring your Placards! Alliance & Member Organization FLAGS!
CALLS:
STOP TRAFFICKING OUR PEOPLE
WORKERS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS
PHILIPPINES: REPEAL THE LABOR EXPORT PROGRAM
EXPLOITATION IS A CRIME! DOWN WITH GRAND ISLE SHIPYARD

For more on this campaign & alliances:
Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers
BAYAN USA
National Alliance for Filipino Concerns-NAFCON

North Carolina Workers Organizations Support Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers


For Immediate Release
February 21, 2013
Contact Name: Hanalei Ramos
Contact Information: j4gisfilipinoworkers@gmail.com

North Carolina Workers Organizations Support Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers

Rally for the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino workers at the Exxon station on Raleigh Road.

Durham, North Carolina – During the rush hour commute, organizers gathered at the Exxon station on Raleigh Road in Chapel Hill of Durham to demand the corporation to discontinue their relationship with Grand Isle Shipyard. Exxon, BP, Shell and Unocal all avail of Grand Isle Shipyard’s service, the oil company responsible for the deaths of three Filipino workers this past November 2012 and exploiting hundreds more.

Jonna Baldres of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and Philippine Forum, provided a background on the exploitative conditions and campaign to obtain justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino. Yves Nibungco, a National Steering Committee Member of the Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers urged the communities in North Carolina to take action, particularly calling on Exxon to stop availing the services of Grand Isle Shipyard. He also urged the community to call Congressman Richard Hudson of North Carolina, who is a member of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections to investigate the inhuman working conditions and unfair labor practices of the Grand Isle Shipyard and Black Elk Energy.

During the mobilization, Donna Dewitt, co-chairperson of the Southern Workers Assembly (SWA) supported the campaign of the GIS Filipino Workers, connecting the struggles of US workers and the migrant Filipino workers. Dewitt related, “Guestworkers face particularly challenging labor conditions, as their visa is tied to continued employment with an individual employer, creating a huge imbalance of power. Similar to other US workers, whether citizens, legal residents, or undocumented, these workers have been denied the most basic labor rights due to the greed of a company that put profits over people.”

Justin Flores of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) drew connections between the local struggles of migrant Latino workers on local tobacco farms in North Carolina and the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers in Louisiana. “We know that what happened at Grand Isle is a logical conclusion of a system that leaves workers without rights. This is what happens when workers can’t complain on the job, this is what happens when workers can’t collectively bargain; and this is what happens when workers’ only way of staying in the country is by maintaining a single employer. We know what it means when US laws don’t mean anything in rural Mexico or the Philippines. We know that the sending countries are fine with it as long as the remittances come back into the country. I’m glad that my brothers and sisters don’t see Grand Isle Shipyard as just one company, but as part of a broken system from Louisiana to North Carolina.”

Later that night, Kasama, a Filipino student organization at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, assembled a forum to discuss the Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers Campaign. Caroline Jurado, Co-leader and Treasurer of Kasama UNC-CH said, “I think Filipino youth should support the Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Campaign because we are the people who will pave the way to our future. We’re not only fighting for the Filipino workers at Grand Isle, but for our working rights as well. Our family and relatives traveled abroad once too, whether it was in United States or elsewhere, in hopes of bettering their lives and ours. By supporting this campaign we are ensuring that their hopes will come true and bring the fair and just treatment that our fellow Filipinos and other overseas workers deserve now and in generations to come.”

Forty audience members packed the said forum. Among the attendees are members of the North Carolina Student Power Union; United Food and Commercial Workers – Local 1208, Smithfield Foods of Tarhill; Southern Workers Assembly; FLOC; UNC-CH Student Action with Workers; and Durham Branch of Workers World Party. The forum ended with a solidarity message from the attendees saying, “North Carolina supports the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino workers! Makibaka! Huwag matakot! (Join the struggle, don’t be afraid!)

Caravans from Chicago, New York City, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Miami area will be converging in New Orleans, LA to support the struggle of the Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS) Filipino Workers, as part of National Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission for the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers. Caravan participants will gather the experiences of the Filipino workers who were trafficked and abused by Grand Isle Shipyard and DNR Offshore Crewing Services, as well as outreach to workers who can join the class action lawsuit, initiated by exploited workers, against Grand Isle Shipyard.

For more information about the “Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers” Campaign visit: https://j4gisfilipinoworkers.wordpress.com/ and for the full statement of the Southern Workers Assembly, visit http://southernworker.org/

Community Organizations Launch a National Caravan to Support Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers

 

For Immediate Release
February 20, 2013
Contact Name: Hanalei Ramos
Contact Information: j4gisfilipinoworkers@gmail.com347 829 9802

 

Community Organizations Launch a National Caravan to Support Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers

Durham, North Carolina – Community organizations of National Alliance of Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and BAYAN-USA have organized a caravan from cities such as Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., Miami, and the New Jersey area to support the struggle of the Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS) Filipino Workers. The caravans are travelling to New Orleans, Louisiana throughout the week of February 19 to February 22 to participate in a National Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission to bear witness to the conditions of Filipino shipyard workers who were trafficked and abused by Grand Isle Shipyard and DNR Offshore Crewing Services. Support their cause and help defend the Filipino workers who are now fighting for their dignity and rights. The Northeast caravan will be joined by the Chicago caravan including the Fellowship of Filipino MIgrants, NAFCON MIdwest, Anakbayan Chicago, and Lay Scalabrinian Missionaries.

BAYAN-USA Northeast and NAFCON-Northeast of the New York and New Jersey caravan will be conducting a press conference in an Exxon station at Raleigh Road in Chapel Hill of Durham, North Carolina on February 20, 2013 at 5PM. This press conference is in collaboration with the Durham Branch of Worker’s World, Southern Workers Assembly, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), UNC CH Student Action with Workers. Jonna Baldres and Yves Nibungco of the National Alliance for FIlipino Concerns will talk about the struggle of the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino workers and will also be joined by Justin Flores of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and Zaina Alsous of the Student Power Union Student Action With Workers.

There will also be a forum with Kasama at UNC CH at Murphey Hall 314 of Chapel Hill, North Campus of the University of North Carolina. The forum will discuss and tackle the conditions of the workers and updates in the ongoing campaign to obtain justice for the Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers. These events are made possible by Anakbayan-USA, Kasama at UNC CH, Southern Workers Assembly, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), UNC CH Student Action with Workers, Durham Branch of Workers World Party, BAYAN USA, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.

For more information about the “Justice for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers” Campaign go here: https://j4gisfilipinoworkers.wordpress.com/