Legal Trafficking is The Philippines’ Labor Export Policy

Forced migration puts hundreds of migrant workers to Louisiana to work long hours without fair wages and indentured servitude. Their living conditions are cramped in substandard facilities. They are kept from the passports and freedom of mobility, therefore kept from their family.

This has got to be a scene out of Django.

Nope. Its about Filipino migrant workers working at an oil barge in New Orleans in 2013.

Here are the 5 things I think you should know about the Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS) workers:

  • Filipino workers employed by the Grand Isle Shipyard were systematically recruited and sent to Louisiana through the Philippine Labor Export Policy–a legal and institutionalized human trafficking program.When people are like, oh those workers wanted to leave the Philippines, they should be thankful that they have jobs. Well, except for the fact that the Philippine government is in bed with multi-national corporations with companies like GIS and they actually trade the Filipino people like tickets at Chuck E. Cheese–where tickets are the people and money are the prizes. (I know I’m reaching with the analogy here!)
  • The Grand Isle Shipyard’s part in trafficking workers from the Philippines is completely deplorable, but more  offensive is their treatment of the workers: no days off, threats of deportation, 12-14 hour work days, refusal for workers to see their families. Trafficking is usually associated with sex workers and industry. But trafficking happens more and more frequently in low-wage migrant labor. Andhonestly, the trafficking part of migrant workers lives isn’t the worst part. The part where they get to the US and they don’t get paid or get underpaid or when they are stuffed in small living spaces or they get no days off or they don’t get to see their families. That’s absolutely the worst part of it, and really the worst thing that workers face in the history of forever.
  • RACISM IS ALIVE AND WELL. Xenophobia is the word used to describe extreme hate for immigrants but what the word elides is that xenophobia is the second cheek on the face of bigotry and discrimination (American as apple pie). Jim Crow didn’t die just yet. Immigrant, undocumented or migrant worker are part of the “collective Black” at the center of racism.

The lawsuit also alleges that American employees weren’t billed for housing and were given preference for sleeping accommodations. “If a Philippine national were assigned to the lower bunk, he would be required to relinquish to an American worker, if he requested it,” the suit said. Read more: Grand Isle Shipyard Lawsuit – The Sociopathic Way We Do Business – Esquire

  • Migrant workers x Oil x Philippine government x multimillion dollar Grand Isle Shipyard Co. The connections between migration, precarious labor, global demand for oil, consumerism, corporate greed, neoliberal states (the Philippines as labor brokering and the US as imperialist), and New Orleans as a historic Filipino migration port leaks with the blood and tears sacrificed by workers for the profit of US imperialism and global capitalism. Migrant workers strung along, exploited and discriminated against, carry the ever-increasing weight of the rest of the world’s (corporations, imperialist governments, and us included y’all) need for fast cars, fast food, fast money.


  • 80 Filipino overseas workers are filing a lawsuit agains the Grand Isle Shipyard (GIS)–an oil company linked specifically to Black Elk Energy in the Gulf of Mexico.

Separate from the explosion, Grand Isle Shipyard is facing a lawsuit by a group of former workers from the Philippines who claim they were confined to cramped living quarters and forced to work long hours for substandard pay. The lawsuit was filed in late 2011 in a Louisiana federal court and is pending. Lawyers for the company have said the workers’ claims are false and should be dismissed. Read more:

Despite the difficult situation they’re in Filipino workers are fighting back. You should think of how you can support them.

In November an explosion claimed the lives of 3 Filipino workers, Avelino Tajonera, Ellroy Corporal and Jerome Malagapo. Let’s honor them by joining the struggle for Grand Isle Shipyard Workers.



January 11, 2013
Reference: Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson, 0933-6503487
Support statement for OFWs’ lawsuit vs. Grand Isle Shipyard
Justice for victims of Black Elk explosion, stop human trafficking!
Migrante Partylist today expressed support for and strong solidarity with at least 80 Filipino migrant workers who filed a class suit against companies Grand Isle Shipyard, Black Elk Energy and DNR Offshore Crewing Services.
The Grand Isle Shipyard is a company based in Louisiana, USA that hired and deployed Filipino migrant workers to oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico, specifically Black Elk Energy. Filipino workers were recruited in the Philippines through local agency DNR Offshore Crewing Services.
Last November 16, 2012, three Filipino welders were killed while three more were severely injured in the explosion that rocked Black Elk. The Filipino casualties were identified as Avelino Tajonera, Ellroy Corporal and Jerome Malagapo. Black Elk has since had a history of safety problems. Since 2010, Black Elk has been cited 315 times for safety violations. In 2012, Black Elk was cited for 45 incidents of non-compliance to company safety standards.
As a result of the tragedy, more than 80 OFWs filed a class action for violation of the FLSA, discrimination, labor trafficking, slavery and forced servitude, and fraud. The class suit is currently pending at the Louisiana Federal Court.
Since their employment by the said companies in 2005, the Filipino migrant workers have experienced abuses and violations of their rights. They were refused days off, made to work 12-14 hours a day without overtime pay, made to pay illegal fees, were refused visits from and to their families, discriminated against (not allowed to speak to their American co-workers), threatened of deportation and other labor violations.
One worker plaintiff, Saxon Gannod, became temporarily blind because of welding for long hours without rest. While getting medical treatment, he was continuously required to work. Another worker burned inside a tank. He only received three days of medical treatment. Instead, he was hidden in one of the recruiter’s homes without sufficient medical treatment.
At least 500 Filipino workers will potentially benefit should the complainants win the class suit. While American workers enjoy the civil liberties granted any other worker in the US – namely, days off and work holidays and other benefits – Filipino workers are treated like slaves and blatantly discriminated against.
They are being guarded 24 hours a day. Surveillance cameras are set up outside their bunkhouses to prevent them from leaving or escaping. They are asked to leave their rooms and vacate their beds should an American worker decide that he wants to occupy it. Filipino workers are also charged US$1000-US$3000 a month per person for rental of their bunk beds.
Migrante Partylist fully supports the fight of Filipino workers in the said companies and vow to actively campaign for the immediate resolution of their plight. The violations committed by the companies against them are unacceptable. The companies perpetuate modern-day slavery and allow for the discrimination and dehumanization of migrant workers.
Migrante Partylist calls for justice for the three Filipinos who died in the Black Elk explosion. It calls on both Philippine and US Congress to conduct an independent and thorough investigation of the tragedy.
It also calls on the Philippine and US governments to investigate, punish and hold accountable perpetrators of labor trafficking, contract substitution and contract violations of the Filipino migrant workers.
Migrante Partylist likewise denounces any form of neglect and possible white-wash by the Philippine Embassy in the US for denying knowledge about the lawsuit. According to the migrant workers, they have requested a dialogue with the Philippine Ambassador but he refused. In a media interview right after the explosion, he even had the gall to declare that “all is fine” and that “they (Philippine government) are looking forward to bringing in more workers to the companies.
As in other cases of trafficking, discrimination, abuse and exploitation of Filipino migrant workers in the US and elsewhere, it has been proven time and again that only through unity and collective action can Filipino migrant workers assert their rights and obtain justice. ###

Office Address: #45 Cambridge St, Cubao, Quezon City
Telefax: 9114910

“Separate from the explosion, Grand Isle Shipyard is facing a lawsuit by a group of former workers from the Philippines who claim they were confined to cramped living quarters and forced to work long hours for substandard pay. The lawsuit was filed in late 2011 in a Louisiana federal court and is pending. Lawyers for the company have said the workers’ claims are false and should be dismissed.”

2 responses to “Legal Trafficking is The Philippines’ Labor Export Policy”

  1. Beautifully succinct, kasama.

  2. Reblogged this on JUSTICE for Grand Isle Shipyard Filipino Workers and commented:

    5 Things You Should Know About GIS Filipino Workers written by Dr. Valerie Francisco, Ph.D.

Leave a Reply to Lolan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: