NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Seventeen Filipino workers say they escaped indentured servitude in the United States after being lured here with visas and lies. Promised work at $16.25 an hour with free room and board, they were paid as little as $5.50, stuffed four to a room into a boarding house and charged $3,200 a month apiece for it, "whether they stayed there or not."
The workers sued Industrial Personnel and Management Services of the Philippines, D&R Resources, of Louisiana and its two individual owners, and five other businesses, in Federal Court. They allege peonage, slavery, human trafficking, conspiracy and other legal violations. They say their bosses even stole their tax refunds.
Also sued are Danilo N. Dayao and Randolph Nunez Malagapo, who own 50 percent of D&R Resources, of Galliano, La.; Thunder Enterprises, which owns the other 50 percent; Grand Isle Shipyards, of Louisiana; Pacific Ocean Manning Inc., a Manila-based recruiter which works in partnership with the final defendant, V People Inc., a Philippines corporation whose principal place of business is in Texas.
"Plaintiffs submitted applications with IPAMS [Industrial Personnel and Management Services]. They were interviewed and required to undergo a trade test, to determine whether they possessed the requisite skills. During the course of the interview, they were told, inter alia, that, if hired, they would be provided transportation to the United States, housing, food, and would be compensated at an hourly rate of $16.25 for regular time, and $24.37 an hour for overtime. Also, plaintiffs were told that they would receive an E2 visa, which would allow them to work in the United States for five years, and eventually they would be able to obtain a green card for permanent residency. ...
"Upon successful completion of the trade and medical tests, plaintiffs were informed that they had to go to the United States Embassy in Manila, to be interviewed. ... Inexplicably, the offer of employment provided to the United States Embassy official was different from the ones signed by plaintiffs at the office of IPAMS."
The complaint adds: "The major difference between the two contracts pertained to the wage rate. The one provided to the U.S. Embassy set forth the prevailing wage rate, the rate required for the employment agreement to meet with the required approval. Whereas, on the other hand, the contract maintained by V-P and D&R provided a wage rate significantly below the prevailing rate.
"The contracts were procured through fraud and misrepresentation. IPAMS, POMI, D&R, POMI, and V-P compelled, coerced, deceived, and/or used other deceptive and/or unlawful methods to procure plaintiffs' signatures on the illegal contracts.
"Plaintiffs executed the contracts because they believed that, in order to work in the United States, they had no choice. Further, they were deceived and otherwise fraudulently induced to sign the contracts with the promise that GIS [Grand Isle Shipyard] would sponsor them for E-2 visas, making them eligible for permanent resident status.
"Based on information and belief, the contract(s) were not approved by the Louisiana Workforce Commission."
The workers say they were promised that "'free food and housing [would] be given at the onshore site.'" (Brackets in complaint.) But they say they were charged $3,200 a month per person to live in a bunkhouse in Galliano, four people to a room, "even if they did not stay there." And they had to buy their own food.