Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Solidarity Building for NOLA Hunger Strikers

The destruction of New Orleans, as we all know, happened in two parts. The first was a natural disaster, unleashed by Hurricane Katrina's fury. The second was the bungled and, to this day, grossly mismanaged handling of reconstruction.

Way down at the bottom of the junk pile are the everyday workers who, because of their legal limbo, are often forgotten - but as I've learned from living and working with those whom society would rather forget or shaft - they have inner-strength that many of us spend a lifetime searching for. XP fills us in:

On May 14, five Indian guest workers launched a water-only hunger strike outside the White House to protest the slave-like conditions that more than 500 Indian welders and pipe fitters have endured while working at the Signal International, a marine oil rig construction company based in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Each workers paid $20,000 to a recruiting agency for the promise of green cards and work-based permanent residency for themselves and their families. Instead they received 10-month temporary H2B guest worker visas and worked under deplorable conditions.

Like many immigrants, they are forced to sell their homes in India or take out loans so they can afford the high fee so they can come here and achieve the “American dream;” but in reality, all they found was the American nightmare.

Solidarity is being built across the world to support the justice of these migrant workers, who were legally working in the U.S. (that's for the trolls who claim they are only against illeeeegals), but were still without protections to their health and job security. A petition is being circulated via the New Orleans' Workers Center for Racial Justice that outlines the following points:
  • That workers be released from the terror of deportation and granted continued presence as authorized by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 so they may safely participate in the federal government’s anti-trafficking investigation
  • That US Congress hold hearings that focus on the way that US companies, recruiters, and labor brokers have used the H-2B guestworker program as a legally sanctioned vehicle for trafficking and forced labor in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast
  • That the Indian government take immediate action to move bilateral discussions between India and US and to ensure the protection of migrant workers arriving in the US from India.

  • Sign the petition here
When we finally learn the lesson that to fight for the justice of all workers, regardless of status or which piece of earth they were born, is to fight for all of us - then the world will finally progress beyond a narrow-minded view that sees the rich getting richer while the rest of us are left to pick from the scraps.

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