February 12, 2010
Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana
Baton Rouge, Louisiana–Filipino migrant teachers who are in a struggle against their recruitment agency on allegations of overcharges and exploitation have banded together to form an advocacy and campaigns organization to consolidate their growing movement.
In a whole day activity dubbed as Filipino Migrant Teachers Assembly held last February 6, 2010 at the Labor Hall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, more than 50 teachers from the different school districts in Louisiana discussed the concept, objectives and organizational structure of the group. By the end of the day the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana was formed and a set of officers was elected.
Ingrid Cruz, one of the organizers of the activity and the elected founding President of the federation underscored the importance of the gathering. “This formation is not only to obtain justice for ourselves and our families but to increase awareness on the issue and prevent more Filipinos from being victimized by these unscrupulous and abusive placement agencies.”
Among the objectives of group are the following: 1. To help Filipino teachers and workers who are victims of trafficking, oppressive forms of recruitment and unfair labor practices; 2. To implement campaigns to pursue justice and enforce the rights of migrant teachers and workers; and 3. To advocate for the promotion of the welfare of migrant workers both in the US and in the Philippines.
It can be recalled that several Filipino teachers started to expose the oppressive policies of their placement agency and their horrible experiences through a blog, www.pinoyteachershub.blogspot.com, which until now continues to rally the teachers to move collectively to obtain justice. People behind the blog are believed to be part of this teachers’ formation.
In the latter part of last year, the teachers with the help of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have filed complaints against the California-based Universal Placement International (UPI) with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Louisiana Workforce Commission. In the Philippines, these teachers in coordination with the labor party-list Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) are filing complaints with the POEA against UPI’s Philippine-based counterpart PARS International.
Mairi Nunag, also an organizer of the formation and the elected Executive Vice-President said that they are expecting that more Filipino teachers will join the organization. “We have many more colleagues who are one with our goals and aspirations. Before, they are afraid to come out in the open to fight these agencies but now many realized that there is no more option left but to stand up and fight.”
The activity was keynoted by Atty. Jesse Marchan, a Filipino-American immigration lawyer who has also volunteered to help the teachers in their situation. Solidarity messages from the Filipino community in Baton Rouge, from PM labor party-list, from the teachers’ blog and other groups were read during the activity.
Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, in a message of solidarity challenged the newly formed organization for the “bigger battle of gaining a voice and winning reforms for Filipino migrant workers in the US.” Ian Seruelo, the PM-Liaison Officer in the U.S. who is also one of the organizers of the event expressed confidence that the formation will solidify the gains of the different efforts and campaigns against the “oppressive tandem of UPI-PARS.” “We will not stop until those responsible for these exploitative practices are punished,” Seruelo added.
Filipino teachers who are holding H1B working visas were deployed in different school districts in Louisiana starting 2007 to fill in the shortage of teachers especially in the fields of math, science and special education.