Paying Attention?

I really wanted to write another light hearted post today about our adventures in Gatlinburg, but, after reading this, I don’t have it in me.

In a nearly perfect illustration of the flaws in a totally “free hand of the market” mindset, approximately 500 shipyard workers from India were lured here to work with promises of permanent jobs, and citizenship. Once here, their passports were confiscated, and the men were forced to live in guarded, overcrowded and isolated labor camps. There are accusations of threats of deportation and physical harm endured by these workers.

To me, this seems no different than the exploitation and suffering heaped upon trafficked sex-workers. How many stories have we heard about women from poor countries making a desperate decision to leave their homes and families to seek a better life somewhere else? What happens to those women is wrong, and what happened to those men is just as wrong.

The story quotes some of the workers as saying the conditions were slave-like. Since the men ponied up as much as 20,000 bucks a piece for this “opportunity”, perhaps indentured servitude is more accurate. Whatever its called, its morally bankrupt to allow this to continue. These 500 men will likely return to India, poorer for the experience, and rightfully angry at an American Govt that ignored their situation. They will talk to their friends and family, and those people will talk to their friends and family, and, before long, thousands upon thousands of Indians will be rightfully angry at the United States.

This is the type of mala en se act that a morally centered Govt can prevent, if it has, as it’s core philosophy, the duty to protect those without power.

I think the thing that chaps me the most is that when this is all over, Signal Corp will likely pay a fine and go on about it’s business. If you total the fine and the money spent on attorneys, the amount may have been less than if they had paid these workers a fair wage in the first place. Or, better yet, if they had hired some unemployed Americans to do those jobs in the first place.

H/T to Bizgrrl

EDIT:  Seems Dr. Byrd felt compelled to draw attention to this as well.

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Paying Attention?

  1. This is sickening.

    I think this sort of thing, certainly, should be covered by international laws and treaties. It’s too big just to be a “shame on the US” thing.

    Shame on the whole damned world.

  2. Similar story broadcast on NPR’s This American Life in November 2007:

    http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1220

    There is no line.

  3. The Missus

    You’re right Signal will get a slap on the wrist. Major news outlets will not pick-up the story. Blah, Blah, f’ing Blah, I’m so sick of being outraged!!
    Follow the link and look at the list of crimes RICO, The Civil Rights Act of 1866 that states non-whites are people too. I’m sure the Justice Dept. will get right on this.

  4. Lesley

    I agree with your assessment. It’s amazing to me that something like this is happening in the United States. The companies that import people as indentured servants or slaves need to be put out of business. It seems to me that they’re committing fraud.

  5. This is disgusting in the extreme. Signal’s management, the recruiters, the guards, all of them ought to face charges and prison terms.

  6. I am completely shocked. There should be outrage over this.

    Ya know…the more I learn, the more I realize that we, as a civilized society, really aren’t all that civilized (to each other) as I thought we were.

    I’m depressed.

  7. The Missus

    I’m pissed off!! I am feeling very Jeremiah Wright.

  8. democommie

    Nothing is new under the sun, Mack. This has been going on in some form forever. It’s wrong and it should be punished but, then again, bribes and “fixes” have been going on forever, too. I imagine Signal’s Mississippi bigwigs are “friends” of Trent Lott.

  9. In a nearly perfect illustration of the flaws in a totally “free hand of the market” mindset, approximately 500 shipyard workers from India were lured here to work with promises of permanent jobs, and citizenship. Once here, their passports were confiscated, and the men were forced to live in guarded, overcrowded and isolated labor camps. There are accusations of threats of deportation and physical harm endured by these workers.

    Don’t know if anyone listens to This American Life on NPR over the weekends, but a few months back they did a piece on a very similar case, out of Oklahoma I believe. The guy who operated the plant never understood what he did wrong; the Indians he kept in basic slavery were all highly educated, some were engineers with advanced degrees, and he had them doing menial tasks. Kept their passports, kept them in horrible living conditions. BUT they were in America, not India, so he thought they should all be grateful.

    The best part? He forced them to go to church on Sunday. This was actually a good thing, because when a couple of the Indians told the church pastor what was going on, he got them lawyers and they all sued the pants off this guy.

    I’ll try to Google it, but apparently it was quite a famous case.

  10. AH I see John Lamb has already remembered this case! Well, I’ll post it anyway: the famous John Pickle Co. of Tulsa, OK. It even has its own Wikipedia entry:

    The John Pickle Company, Inc. (JPC) is a Tulsa, Oklahoma based oil industry parts manufacturer. The Tulsa factory closed in September 2002. The company currently has operations in Kuwait, John Pickle Middle East, the pressure-vessel division of Kuwait Pipe Industries and Oil Services Company (KPS).[1]
    The company is notable for having suffered a significant legal loss to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), when a federal judge ordered John Pickle Company, Inc. (JPC) and its president, John Pickle, to pay $1.3 million to 52 male victims of national origin discrimination and “human trafficking.” The workers were recruited from India as skilled laborers in 2001 and then subjected to widespread abuse, intimidation and exploitation. With the help of church workers, they left the plant in early 2002.
    ———

    I hear stories that a similar thing is occurring at the Smithfield Farms meat processing plant in North Carolina. Of course, those workers are largely Mexican, so no one is paying attention.

  11. Pingback: Random Things to Occupy Your Mind « Tiny Cat Pants

  12. democommie

    Mack:

    You know that screwing the working man is not the American–unless the working man is not an American. Besides the values these fellows are absorbing through this process will be of great help in future when they return to exploit their fellow Indians. Win , Win!!

  13. democommie

    Meant to say:

    You know that screwing the working man is not the American Way

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