Indian Guest-Workers in New Orleans on Hunger Strike
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Ruchira Paul reports that Indian guest workers are striking in New Orleans:
During our vacation a week ago, my daughter and I stopped by at the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice. The organization is an advocacy group for workers involved in the reconstruction of New Orleans after the devastation of Katrina. The vast rebuilding effort led the US government to permit recruitment of foreign laborers who were accorded "guest worker" status for the duration of their employment but apparently not the same rights and protection that are guaranteed to domestic workers under US labor laws. Lacking safeguards, the foreign workers are ripe targets for exploitation and abuse by contractors.
The Louisiana guest workers group includes citizens of several countries. Among them are a few hundred welders and pipe-fitters from India, recruited by Signal International, a Marine & Fabrication Company, apparently with the lure of lucrative jobs and immigrant visas. The promise proved to be false and the Indian workers have done the unthinkable - they have launched a strike on foreign soil, demanding justice from the host nation and advocacy from their own embassy spokespersons.
Read the whole thing. Please circulate widely.
Twenty-four guest workers from Signal International have been on a hunger strike at the White House since May 14. Fifteen more hunger strikers will join them tomorrow and another fifteen will arrive on the 31st.
Various labor and civil rights organizations are supporting their campaign including D.C. Jobs with Justice, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the AFL-CIO.
The workers are asking for the Indian government to press the United States for fair treatment. India has already pressed other countries to do right by Indian guest workers, including Malaysia and Bahrain: