SPLC spearheads multiple lawsuits against Signal International for human trafficking of Indian workers
A coalition of some of the nation’s most prestigious law firms today began filing a series of federal lawsuits to prosecute multiple human trafficking and racketeering allegations against a Gulf Coast marine services company and its network of recruiters and labor brokers.
The cases stem from an SPLC case, David v. Signal International LLC case, which was filed in 2008 on behalf of 12 named plaintiffs and a class of Indian guest workers. After a federal court denied class certification in the case, the SPLC contacted more than half a dozen high-powered law firms, which agreed to represent other guest workers recruited by Signal. The firms are taking the cases on a pro bono basis.
The new lawsuits allege that the defendants trafficked more than 500 Indian guest workers to the United States after Hurricane Katrina and forced them to work under barbaric conditions at Signal’s shipyards in Pascagoula, Miss., and Orange, Texas.
“These lawsuits illustrate, in shocking detail, the abuse occurring within the nation’s guest worker programs that are clearly in need of major reform,” said Daniel Werner, SPLC senior supervising attorney. “They seek justice for the victimized guest workers and also send a strong message to other companies who might engage in this type of behavior.”
According to the complaints, Signal and its agents defrauded each of the guest workers out of tens of thousands of dollars in fictitious “recruitment fees”; falsely promised them assistance in applying for and obtaining permanent residence in the United States; trafficked them to the company’s Mississippi and Texas shipyards; forced them to live in overcrowded, unsanitary and racially segregated labor camps that endangered their health and psychological well-being; assigned them the most dangerous and difficult jobs due to their race, ethnicity, religion and national origin; and threatened them with financial ruin and adverse immigration action if they balked.