20 05 2008

As the hunger strike shifted locations this morning from the Indian Embassy to the Capitol Hill reflecting pool, we received great news this morning from our friend Fred Hirsch:

Brothers and Sisters,

Several members of Plumbers and fitters Local 393 had the privilege of
attending your conference in April where we met the welders and fitters from
India. As a result of meeting them and learning about them we are proud to have been able to take the following action.

Thank you for the conference and thank you for getting us together with our
Indian brothers. Please pass this on to the organizers and organizations
which are working on this issue in Mississippi.

In Solidarity and with the greatest respect,

Fred Hirsch



The resolution below was passed unanimously on 5/14/08 at a regular union
meeting of UA Plumbers and Fitters Local 393 in San Jose, California.

Local 393 delegates carried it to the California State Pipe Trades Council
Convention n Napa, California on 5/15 asking concurrence by the statewide
organization representing over 30,000 pipe trades workers. On 5/16 the

Resolutions Committee considered it in detail and recommended concurrence.
On 5/16 it was handed out to all delegates, it was read and a brief comment
was made supporting the resolution. The 156 delegates passed the resolution

with a unanimous vote.


Whereas, at a recent conference in Dearborn, Michigan members of Local 393
met with welders and pipefitters from India who were recruited as so-called
“guest workers” to work for Signal International LLD (an oil rig repair and

construction company) in Pascagoula, Mississippi, an area still affected by
Hurricane Katrina, and

Whereas these fitters and welders said they had given up life savings, sold
family homes and jewelry in order to pay up to $20,000 in immigration and

travel fees in advance after Signal’s recruiters tested them for their
skills and gave them false promises of permanent resident “green card” visas
to work in the United States starting at $24 an hour, and

Whereas the Indian welders and fitters said they did not come to take
anyone’s jobs, they were told by Signal’s recruiters that, because of
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, there were not enough local, skilled people to

fill these jobs, and

Whereas, on arrival the promised green cards turned out to be 10-month H2B
“guest worker” visas, controlled by the company, allowing not even enough
time to pay off their enormous debt, and

Whereas, the workers had to pay $1050 a month to live in Signal’s grossly
overcrowded, guarded “mancamp” trailers with inadequate toilets and bad food
that frequently made them ill, and

Whereas, when, in March 2007, they began to assert their labor rights, armed

company guards were sent in, threatening deportation and forcefully
detaining the leaders for six hours, until they were freed when co-workers
called local police, and

Whereas the Indian fitters and welders organized themselves with help from

the New Orleans Workers’ Center, the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance,
and the Southern Poverty Law Center and have filed a class action lawsuit on
behalf of some 500 Indian H-2B “guest workers” who Signal similarly

recruited since 2003, and

Whereas these fitters and welders organized a march to Washington to demand
a “just immigration system that does not seek to pit exploitable foreign
workers against American workers” in a race to the bottom, and

Whereas the Indian fitters and welders demanded that Signal International
hire local American workers under a union contract, with fair wages, health
benefits, immigrant rights, and a chance to move forward and make life

better for all of Mississippi, and

Whereas they want a Congressional investigation and Justice Department
action relating to Signal International’s involvement in “forced labor
and human trafficking” in violation of the Victims of Trafficking and

Violence Protection Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and the Fair
Labor Standards Act, and

Whereas we as members of United Association should stand in solidarity with

our Indian counterparts, recognizing that the large American construction
company Signal, sought to replace local workers who are either
underemployed or were completely displaced by Katrina, and UA steamfitters

and welders with “guest workers” they believed would be cheap, exploitable,
and easy to manage and intimidate, and

Whereas the situation of Indian “guest workers” on the post Katrina Gulf

Coast doing work in the UA jurisdiction validates the 3/1/06 AFL-CIO
statement that: “Overhaul of our nation¹s immigration laws is long overdue.
The current system is a blueprint for exploitation of workers, both

foreign-born and native…America deserves an immigration system that
protects all workers within our borders – both native-born and foreign – and
at same time guarantees the safety of our nation without compromising our

fundamental civil rights and civil liberties…”

Therefore Be It Resolved that our Local Union recognizes that; we members of
the United Association have a vested interest in supporting the struggle of

the Indian welders and fitters in Mississippi; that their fight to win their
fundamental human rights as workers is part of the larger fight against the
pitfalls of globalization and of pro-corporate “guest worker” programs

designed to pit U.S. workers against our foreign counterparts in an economic
race to the bottom; that we offer our solidarity and support their demand
for a Congressional investigation and for action by the Department of

Justice against those guilty of violating their rights as workers under the
Fair Labor Standards Act, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence
Protection Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and

whatever civil rights laws may be applicable, and

Be It Further Resolved that we ask the UA to cooperate with the pipe trades
workers from India in their efforts, to show our support of dignity and
respect for all those who work in our industry, with the tools of our trade

in observance of the call of our U.A. Constitution to use our “influence on
those who do not as yet belong to the Association…to join with us in our
efforts to secure through the power of organization…the steady demand and

a fair compensation for our toil,” and

Be It Finally Resolved that we endorse and promote the AFL-CIO call for
reversing “the trend of allowing employers…to broaden the size and scope
of guestworker programs,” and to promote, “an immigration system that

protects all workers within our borders – both native-born and foreign – and
at same time guarantees the safety of our nation without compromising our
fundamental civil rights and civil liberties.”




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