Skip to main content

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of guest workers with H-2B visas were recruited from Latin America and Asia and brought to the Gulf Coast on the false promise of steady jobs, fair pay, great conditions and even permanent legal status. Many of the workers paid thousands of dollars each to recruiters to buy what they thought was an American dream, only to find out later their dream was a nightmare filled with terrible work conditions and no protections.

The workers fought back, and today have rung up some significant achievements. They now plan to build on their victories by focusing on organizing and political action to expand the rights of guest workers. The H-2B workers are recruited for jobs after employers certify that they cannot find U.S. citizens to do the work. The guest workers are then bound to that one employer and cannot move to another job if they are mistreated.  

First they formed their own organization, the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity, which serves as a national voice for guest workers whose rights are denied. In one of their most widely publicized actions, members of the Alliance sued Signal International, a Gulf Coast shipyard, claiming that Indian guest workers at the shipyard were practically enslaved. The workers endured a hunger strike and traveled to Washington, D.C., to demand justice. The workers, all men, said they were charged up to $20,000 each for false promises of green cards, only to work and live in deplorable conditions

In June, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that 150 of the Indian workers had been subjected to involuntary servitude and were entitled to visas set aside for victims of human trafficking.

The Alliance, a partner of the New Orleans Center for Racial Justice, also was instrumental in the introduction of the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act this past spring. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert Mendendez  (D-N.J.), would protect immigrant workers who speak up about conditions on the job. Often, immigrant workers are threatened with deportation if they speak up. Congress has not acted on the bill.

The workers also won and lost a case against Decatur Hotel in New Orleans. A federal district judge agreed the hotel had broken federal labor laws and had not paid guest worker employees a fair wage. But a federal appeals court overruled that decision.

Originally posted to James Parks on Fri Dec 17, 2010 at 06:03 AM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  What are these people doing that (0+ / 0-)

    the employers certified there were no US citizens to do them? Do these employers have to show due diligence in looking for US born employees?
    Yes these employers should be taken down especially if they are hiring foreigners before unemployed US workers.
    I'm sure after Katrina there were plenty of people looking for work.

    If we all just stopped voting would they all just go away?

    by longislandny on Fri Dec 17, 2010 at 07:37:36 AM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site