From the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. Many of you know about this courageous group of workers, who have won incredible victories already for guestworkers and gained the support of labor, immigrant rights, and civil rights communities as well of a number of elected officials. Your contribution would go a long way in sustaining their hunger strike, now in its third week, as they build pressure on US federal authorities and the Indian government. We encourage you to forward this message broadly. The following appeal was written on Wednesday, June 4th from the leadership team of the Indian Workers Congress.
Support Indian Guestworkers in Their Historic Hunger Strike
HUNGER STRIKE IN THIRD WEEK AS PRESSURE MOUNTS IN DC, INDIA FOR WORKERS’ DEMANDS
Dear friends: We are the Indian guestworkers who were trafficked to the post-Katrina Gulf Coast in December 2006. We are now in Washington, DC fighting labor trafficking and modern-day slavery. We need your donation to sustain our historic campaign.
After Hurricane Katrina, a US company — Signal International, LLC — recruited us by force, fraud, and coercion. Signal’s recruiters sold us false promises. They told us there were jobs in the Gulf Coast, and that we could bring our families and build lives in the United States. We paid recruiters $20,000 for these American dreams. We sold our homes, plunged our families into debt and mortgaged our futures to raise the money. But we arrived into a nightmare.
Signal held us in forced labor. We lived like animals, 24 men to a small room. We faced constant threats and humiliation. When we started to organize in March 2007, Signal sent armed guards to the labor camps dawn. They pulled our terrified organizers out of bed, imprisoned them on company grounds, and attempted to deport them. 300 of us went on strike that day to free our captive organizers.
One year later, our struggle for dignity continues. In March this year we escaped from the labor camps into freedom in the United States. In April we walked from New Orleans to Washington in the footsteps of US freedom fighters, to expose the realities of the guestworker program. And on May 14 we launched a hunger strike, in the tradition of Gandhi, to bring Signal International to justice.
What do we want now? The Department of Justice must allow us to participate safely in a criminal trafficking investigation of Signal. Congress must hold hearings on guestworker exploitation. And no future worker should face the humiliation that we have faced: modern-day slavery in the world’s richest nation.
We are now on Day 22 of our hunger strike. Success is at hand. We have the support of key members of Congress. Grassroots supporters have written nearly 9,000 letters to Congress on our behalf. And the Indian government, because of our pressure, has launched criminal proceedings against the recruiters in India.
But the costs of our campaign are staggering. Our resolve is unlimited — but our collective savings are not. We can’t work in the US, and we still face massive debt at home. This fight is all we have. Help us win!
Please make a secure contribution today at: <www.neworleansworkerjustice.org/contribute.htm>. You can also write a check payable to our fiscal sponsor, the National Immigration Law Center. Be sure to write Indian Workers’ Congress on the subject line, and mail it to: National Immigration Law Center, 3435 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 2850, Los Angeles, CA 90010. With your help, we can win!
Indian Workers’ Congress/Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity
For more information, visit the Web site of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice at <www.neworleansworkerjustice.org>.