A group of Indian workers and their supporters in the U.S. labor movement rallied at the U.S. Capitol building May 20 after the workers staged a "water only" strike at the White House that began six days earlier.
The five who staged the hunger strike and almost 500 other pipe fitters and welders were lured from their homes in India all the way to Mississippi where they were told high paying jobs and permanent residency status were waiting for them. Soon after their arrival, they were promised, their families could join them. Signal International, the shipyard company that recruited and hired them with the false promises, charged them as much as $20,000 apiece for the trip to America.
They were forced to pay half their wages to rent filthy, cramped trailers in a section of the shipyard surrounded by barbed wire. Much of their remaining wage was taken to service their $20,000 debt and, with the company holding their passports, they were kept as virtual prison laborers.
When they complained about either their living or working conditions, company supervisors threatened them with firing, which for a “guest worker” with an H-2B visa, means automatic deportation.
The labor movement opposes the H-2B visa program which they see as rife with abuse. Originally designed so that employers who had difficulty finding skilled workers in the U.S. could get government permission to temporarily bring in workers from abroad, the program is now used by big companies to import tens of thousands of low wage laborers, driving down working conditions for all U.S. workers. Article continues here.