Day 25 – Hunger strike in the New York Times!

7 06 2008

Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Click here to read “Workers on Hunger Strike Say They Were Misled on Visas,” the excellent story that appeared in today’s New York Times about the hunger strike and the 18-month struggle for justice that preceded it. An excerpt:

WASHINGTON — About a dozen metalworkers from India staged the fourth week of a hunger strike here this week, camped under a shade tree on Embassy Row.

The workers, who walked off jobs in Gulf Coast shipyards in early March, say they were victims of human trafficking when they were brought to the United States under a temporary guest worker program. The hunger strike is meant to pressure federal officials, and comes as Congress is debating an expansion of the guest worker program, known as H-2B for the type of temporary visa the workers receive.

The Indian workers say they were deceived by Signal International and labor recruiters when they paid as much as $20,000 for visas they believed would allow them to work and live permanently with their families in the United States. In fact, the H-2B visas are for short-term contracts.

“Everyone has a dream,” said one of the protesters, Paul Konar, a 54-year-old worker from the Indian state of Kerala, speaking in Hindi through a translator. “If we could come here legally to live with our families, that was my dream.”