Thursday, March 12, 2009

Group of foreign workers wants chance to stay


Thang Hong Luu pledged his parents’ house in Vietnam as collateral to raise enough money to take advantage of a job opportunity in America.

He says he paid a $10,000 fee to be chosen for a 2½ -year stint as a welder that he thought would earn him more than $100,000 — money that seemed out of reach in Vietnam.

But in February, eight months into his work contract, he was told he’d have to go home, he said.

“There is a lot of injustice and deception that I don’t understand,” he said through an interpreter, Tammy Tran, who is also one of his attorneys.

On Tuesday, he was the first of about 20 workers Tran represents to file a lawsuit claiming Coast to Coast Resources, a Port Aransas-based staffing agency for skilled laborers, and ILP Agency, a Louisiana-based labor firm, promised work for 30 months at $15 per hour but reneged months into the contract.

Luu says the companies charged him and his fellow workers a fee of between $6,500 and $15,000 to be chosen for the U.S. jobs; told them not to speak to outsiders because Americans disliked citizens of communist countries; and overcharged them for housing and transportation.

Sad isn't it but making illegal workers pay for the chance at work in America is the oldest scam in the book. Conditions in Vietnam are so poor that men can easily be tricked into paying to take job that promise them $100000 a year.

Luu’s contract with Coast to Coast notes he would earn $15 an hour for the first 40 hours and an additional $22.50 an hour for overtime.

He also agreed to pay Coast to Coast $500 a month in rent, $85 a month for transportation and a management fee of $2 per hour worked, according to a copy of his contract.

He said he didn’t know when he signed the contract that he’d be sharing an apartment with three other workers.

Coast to Coast’s attorney said the management fee was never charged but the various other charges were often lower than the contract allowed.

The charges covered expenses the company incurred for the workers, including assisting them with housing, food, transportation, medical needs, tools, electricity, furniture, a full-time apartment supervisor and a registered nurse, he said.

Luu netted an average $13 an hour, according to Funk.

Yup. $15 is dirt cheap for a welder. A legal unionized welder would make alot more.

Jobless and afraid to return home without the funds to pay off debt he took on to come to America, Luu remains in limbo.

He and the other workers are relying on the local Vietnamese community for help.

On another legal front, immigration attorneys at Foster Quan said they plan to seek visas for the workers that will let them stay in the U.S. as victims of a crime or of human trafficking during an ongoing investigation.

Luu said he wants to stay in America long enough to earn what he needs to pay off the loan on his parents’ home and help educate his six nieces and nephews.

“I’d like to stay here legally for two to three years,” he said. “I am very scared for my family.”

It's tough but one has to think before taking such risks. There are no guarantees that there will be work. Any of us that work can be let go at anytime.

As for getting help from the local Vietnamese community, good luck. Recently people who come from Vietnam to America to work often thumb their noses at the local Vietnamese that have already been established in the US. I don't see the local Vietnamese being able or wanting to help much.

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