SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
Reference: Rupert Estanislao, chair.
Representatives from major business interests and the AFL-CIO, the U.S.’s largest labor federation, appear to be near an agreement with U.S. lawmakers on immigration reform and the current status of the guest worker program, which has been linked to wage exploitation, human rights abuses, and even the deaths of three Filipino workers on the Black Elk Energy oil platform last November. The guest worker program has been exposed in many cases now as a form of “legal human trafficking.”
“The guest worker program is one of the main culprits in the trafficking and exploitation of Filipino workers in the U.S. and the fact that major business interests and lawmakers are involved in trying to expand it to make it easier for big business to squeeze as much profit out of migrant workers as possible is deplorable,” said San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF CHRP) chair Rupert Estanislao. “Also, the involvement of the AFL-CIO in negotiations is also troubling. Instead of pressing for working class unity amongst U.S. workers and migrant workers the AFL-CIO is seemingly involved in just trying to ‘reform’ a program which has creates second-class status and slave like conditions for migrant workers.”
Labor and migrant rights activists and organizations have stated that the guest worker program has created “slave like conditions” for migrant workers within the U.S. Routine human rights violations associated with the program have been: workers being lured by false promises and being cheated out of wages; being held captive by their bosses and their papers and documents being seized; being forced to pay for, and live in, squalid conditions; and being subject to extremely hazardous work environments, injury, health issues, and even death.
“All of the issues that have been pointed out about this program are all issues that are affecting Filipino migrant workers within the U.S.,” said Estanislao. “A clear example of this was with the Grand Isle Shipyard workers who were cheated out of wages, had their documents withheld, forced to work up to 90 hours a week with no overtime, and kept under lockdown and isolation from the outside world by their bosses. The workers of Grand Isle Shipyard are a clear example of the complete and utter bankruptcy of this program.”
The guest worker program has a long history within the U.S. going all the way back to the 1940s when the U.S. initiated the Bracero program to traffic and exploit more than four million Mexican migrant workers in the agricultural fields of the U.S. These workers also endured hellish conditions in the fields and slavelike conditions for often no pay.
“The U.S. government, in collusion with Philippine president Noynoy Aquino, is continuing to use the blood, sweat, and tears of Filipino migrant workers, in order to fatten the pockets of multi-million and multi-billion dollar corporations,” explained Estanislao. “Nothing short of a full immigration overhaul which puts the rights of migrants and workers at the center of its principles will suffice.”
SF CHRP is calling for a complete overhaul of the guest worker program and immigration laws which acknowledges that workers rights are human rights and that migrant workers be given full opportunity to exercise their human rights which includes, but is not limited to, exercising the right to organize unions, fight for higher wages, and express their grievances to their employers. SF CHRP also recognizes the culpability of the Philippine government and Philippine embassy as being a party to the exploitation of Filipino migrant workers in the U.S. and is calling on the Philippine government to actually take a stand for the rights of Filipino migrant workers in the U.S. instead of partnering with the U.S. government and major corporations which continue to exploit them to the hilt.