Moral Low Ground

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Federal Agency Sues Company Over Mistreatment of Indian Workers

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced it will sue Signal International LLC, claiming the Alabama-based shipbuilder engaged in human trafficking of around 500 Indian workers and subjected them to a hostile work environment, the Mobile Press-Register reports.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the US District Court in Gulfport, Mississippi, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for the affected workers as well as guarantees that Signal will never treat workers in such an appalling manner again.

The Indian workers in question claim they were treated like slaves by Signal. They say they were defrauded by company recruiters in India who promised them green cards and permanent US residency for $20,000. But the Indians only received 10-month work visas, which was only enough time for them to earn enough to pay off their recruitment fees.

The men claim Signal forced them to live in substandard housing, packed 24 to a room and charged $1,000 per month for company housing.

Signal executives refuse to comment on the lawsuit or the Indians’ allegations. In 2008, the company released a statement calling the workers’ accusations “baseless and unfounded.” Signal insisted that the “vast majority” of its Indian employees were happy with their jobs and their living conditions.

But Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, said the EEOC lawsuit “vindicates the workers and the many union and civil rights leaders who stood by them for three years as they fought Signal.”

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