Guest worker programs in the United States have long been a tactic to exploit cheap immigrants labor and undermine working class wages. But sometimes they go a step further and resemble share cropping and even slavery.
In the case of Signal International, a subcontractor for U.S. defense giant Northrop Grumman, it is not difficult to see the connection between guest worker programs and outright slavery. Indian workers were promised good jobs, the ability to bring their families over and even green cards in exchange for $20,000 in cash upfront. After coughing up their life savings, these workers were kept in labor camps in terrible working conditions and told that they'd be sent back when their visas expired. They were under constant threat of deportation, sometimes even being told that if they didn't get a specific job done in time, they would be deported.
Instead of allowing themselves to be intimidated, the workers filed a case with the Department of Justice accusing the company of human trafficking. The DoJ, in its infinite wisdom, has ruled that it can only hear the case after the claimants have been deported!!!
These workers have shown unbelievable courage and strength in their fight for dignity. Today they went on hunger strike to demand that Congress pass legislation to ensure that they are not deported until their case is heard. The kickoff event took place in front of the White House and lots of folks came out to express their solidarity, including civil rights leader Lennox Yearwood.
Please check out the New Orleans Worker Center webpage for more background and updates and sign this petition to express your solidarity. And if you are in DC, try to come by and see the workers to express your solidarity (be sure to check the website first as they will be in different places over the next few weeks).