Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Indian Guest Workers from Gulf Coast stage Hunger Strike in DC
Last night I did a short performance, a monologue of a civil rights leader, Unita Blackwell, recalling her days in the movement. At the end of the piece, her voice breaks into song, "Will you die for your freedom? Certainly, Lord, certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord." It left the audience completely quiet, after which they broke into loud strong applause.
The piece was in honor of the Indian guest workers currently on hunger strike here in DC as I write this. Over one hundred workers walked off their jobs in March, in protest of the essentially forced labor camps they were subjected to upon reaching the US under the very controversial H-2B guest worker program. They marched from New Orleans and arrived here, demanding, among other things, a case investigation by Congress.
You can help by simply stopping by to say hello if you live in DC.
They love visitors, it boosts their morale. That's what I did on Monday. It left me humbled and inspired. You can also help by spreading the word to folks you know in the media, students, church groups, anyone and everyone.
Below are details about their case, their current schedule and what you can do to help out if you so choose.
Thanks for reading and be well,
Rally: Weds, May 21st
Capitol Reflecting Pool
(3rd St between Maryland and Pennsylvania Ave, NW) A second wave of workers will join the hunger strike, and allies will join in a solidarity fast.
Community-wide Meeting with the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity Thursday, May 22nd 7-9pm All Soul's Unitarian Church 1500 Harvard St, NW
Interfaith Worker Justice Prayer Circle
Friday, May 23rd:
Capitol Reflecting Pool, 3rd St between Maryland and Pennsylvania Ave, NW
There will be another major action on Wed, May 28th.
DONATIONS CURRENTLY NEEDED
List of items:
Hats (for the cold, 10)
Groceries (bags of rice, spices, water etc.) Rice cooker Bed/mattress
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, May 15, 2008 at 1:34 PM
Subject: Support Indian Workers from Gulf Coast in May
Support Indian Guest Workers from Gulf Coast in May - Show Your Support by Donating, Volunteering, or Participating in Solidarity Actions
At 10am on May 14th, Indian guest workers, who are victims of trafficking and workplace exploitation on the US Gulf Coast, began a series of actions in Washington DC, including a hunger strike across from the White House. Over 500 Indian guest workers paid up to $20,000 each to US and Indian recruiters who promised them green cards and visas for their families. Once they arrived in the US, workers found that these promises were false. Their employer, Signal International, held the workers in forced labor camps and subjected them to humiliating treatment, racial slurs, and threats of deportation. In March 2008, over 100 workers broke the trafficking chain by walking off their jobs, reporting Signal to the Department of Justice, and filing a class action lawsuit.
The workers' demands include the right to stay in the US to participate in the investigation of their case; Congressional hearings on the abuses of the guest worker visa program in the US Gulf Coast; and action from the Indian government to protect Indian guest workers and their families in the future.
There are a number of ways that people around the country can show support for the workers, including:
1. DONATING- the workers need financial support to continue their journey to justice. Please consider donating - even the cost of your meals for one week - to:
National Immigration Law Center (3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2850, Los Angeles, CA 90010). Please include NOWCRJ/IWC on the subject line http://www.neworleansworkerjustice.org/contribute.htm
2. ASK CONGRESS TO TAKE ACTION - Click here to send a message to your senators and representative demanding Congress to hold hearings on the trafficking of workers on the US Gulf Coast and the actions of their employers; and to urge government agencies to investigate the workers'claims quickly and thoroughly.
3. For those living in the Washington DC Area:
OBSERVE or MONITOR during the hunger strike (no legal experience necessary, training will be provided on-site). If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, cell phone number, and days and hours you are available (either 9am-1pm or 1pm-5pm shifts).
Visit the workers and offer your support and encouragement (see below for a schedule of where the workers will be) IDENTIFY FAITH-BASED or COMMUNITY LEADERS who can visit with the workers to provide moral support.
Donate Malayalam, Tamil, or Hindi books, magazines or newspapers Drop off in-kind donations (cases of water, folding chairs, bedding, kitchen items or rain gear such as ponchos, umbrellas and tarp) Please contact SAALT at 301-270-1855 or email@example.com if you would like to drop off donations to the SAALT office (6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 506, Takoma Park, MD 20912).
The workers will be at the following locations from 9am - 5pm throughout the month of May:
May 15th - May 16th: Lafayette Park -the White House May 17th - May 19th: Gandhi Statue - Indian Embassy Chancery Office May 20th - May 25th: Capitol Reflecting Pool May 26th - onwards: Please contact SAALT for updated information
4. For those around the country:
You can show your support for the workers through local solidarity events in May and June in order to raise awareness about the issues the workers have faced and the guest worker program in the United States. You can host these discussions on your campus, place of worship, or cultural/professional organization. SAALT can provide articles and materials for discussion. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call301.270.1855 for more information.
To learn more about the workers' campaign, visit the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice blog. You can also read a recent article on the workers and the implications of trafficking written by Svati Shah featured in SAMAR Magazine.
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is an ally of the Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity, a project of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice.
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 506 Takoma Park MD 20912