Saturday, March 03, 2007

Give us Your Tired
Stuart (update your site, BTW) forwarded me this article earlier in the week. It's about corporations bringing guest workers to this country and abusing them:
To a rice farmer from Thailand making $500 a year, the recruiter’s pitch was hard to resist — three years of farm work in North Carolina that would pay more than 30 times as much as he earned at home.

The pitch was so persuasive that the farmer, Worawut Khansamrit, put his farm up as collateral to pay the recruiter $11,000 to become a guest worker. “The amount of money they promised was very attractive,” said Mr. Khansamrit, a slight, soft-spoken 40-year-old with a 15-year-old daughter he wants to send to college.

But after he arrived in North Carolina with 30 other Thai workers, he found there was only about a month’s work. He was then taken to New Orleans to remove debris from a hotel damaged by Hurricane Katrina — work he says he was never paid for. This month, he and other Thai workers filed a federal lawsuit asserting that they were victims of illegal trafficking.

Labor experts say employers abuse guest workers far more than other workers because employers know they can ship them home the moment they complain. They also know these workers cannot seek other jobs if they are unhappy.
The abuses take many forms. Guest workers often pay exorbitant fees and are frequently given fewer weeks of work and lower wages than promised. Many employers fail to make good on their commitment to pay transportation costs. The Thai workers, who were supposed to be paid $16,000 a year for three years, ended up earning a total of just $1,400 to $2,400. Most of the Thai workers had their passports taken away after they arrived, leaving them trapped.

There's more in the original article. It's worth a read. It's stunning to see just what businesses will do when there are no rules, or when they know the rules won't be enforced.