Tuesday, September 07, 2010


How indentured servitude works in America

by Larry Geller

This week will see two high-profilce court appearances in Honolulu related to human trafficking. On Wednesday a custody determination for Mordechai Orian, accused of trafficking over 400 workers from Thailand will take place in federal court. On Thursday the Aloun Farms Sou brothers will be sentenced, also in federal court. The Sous were originally customers of Mordechai’s  Global Horizons Manpower Inc., a Los Angeles company that provided farm laborers for Hawaii and other locations.

Unfortunately, these cases will hardly put a dent in the problem of farm worker indentured servitude. The size of the problem is not only huge and hard to estimate, but the US Department of Labor has only 953 staffers, and so is totally unable to monitor the working conditions of 137 million US workers who fall under the federal H-2A guest-worker program.

These figures come from a comprehensive article published by Mother Jones, Bound for America (May/June 2010). The article explains in detail how the schemes work and how pervasive the problem may be.

The problem is not limited to farm workers:

LAST YEAR, some 60,000 workers arrived in the US under the federal H-2A guest-worker program, which allows agribusinesses to bring in foreign labor for jobs they say are hard to fill at minimum wage. Similar temp-worker programs in industries like seafood processing, tree planting, and hotel maintenance brought in an additional 59,000 workers, and 60,000 more came in through temporary programs for professionals in fields deemed to have labor shortages—teachers, nurses, computer programmers.

Many of them come with crushing debt, the article states, incurred during the recruiting process. They are therefore prime candidates for indentured servitude. They can be sent back at any time by their employers, but their debt remains. They may have lost their family homes or farms as they incurred those debts.

America is still in the slavery business. Now we call them “guest workers.” It’s clear that they are not treated as guests.

Check out the Mother Jones article linked above.


Thanks for using "the S word" that the corporate media seems to be avoiding.

Oh come on! H1B visas are also sold. We have double digit unemployment yet we import labor. Start going to Key West or the Hamptons and interview the Russian or Croatian cashier or stripper.

You people are just blind to the obvious. The State Department sells visas.

Americans are not lining up to take these farm jobs, unemployment or not. Sorry, I haven't interviewed any Croatian strippers yet, but I doubt that's having an impact on unemployment.

As to importing labor, this country runs on imported labor. In the past, it was plantation labor. Now and on into the future, as educational levels rise in many countries, corporations prefer to bring in low-cost labor rather than pay prevailing domestic wages.

This does not mean that the quality of the work is any less. Quite the contrary. If the cost of college tuition in this country continues to rise, we won't have a domestic labor force that can compete.

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