Friday, August 6, 2010

Filipino teachers in US file class suit vs oppressive recruiters

Press Release August 6, 2010

Filipino migrant teachers in Louisiana today (August 5, US Central Time) filed a class lawsuit against Universal Placement International (UPI) and its Philippine based partner, PARS International for various offenses ranging from racketeering, human trafficking, extortion and mail and wire fraud.

Hundreds of Filipino migrant teachers who are working under H1-B visa and are deployed in several school districts in Louisiana are represented in the class action lawsuit. The plaintiffs are spearheaded by the Filipino Educators Federation (FEF) of Louisiana, a group formed to organize the victims of the recruitment agencies and pursue efforts against these same agencies.

Also named as respondents in the complaint are Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro and Hothello “Jack” Navarro of UPI, Emilio Villarba of PARS International; UPI’s law firm Silverman and Associates and lawyer Robert Silverman; and the East Baton Rouge School District and three of its former and one current officers.

The lawsuit arouse from the illegal and highly exorbitant amount that were charged to the Filipino teachers. The recruitment agencies were never transparent and always seemed to come up with additional payments. When teachers attempt to complain or question the policies of the agency they were threatened to be sued or fired or deported back to the Philippines. Aside from the illegal charges, the teachers were intimidated to sign lopsided contracts.

During a press conference held to announce the filing of the suit, a press statement was read by Ingrid Jomento-Cruz, FEF President. “We never imagined that an oppressive racketeering trap was laid before us. Universal Placement International or UPI and its Philippine-based conduit, PARS International, created a non-transparent scheme that starts with earning your trust, then proceeds with a series of payment collection laced with subtle intimidation and then followed through with fraud, coercion and open extortion. We were herded onto a path, a slowly constricting path, where the moment you realize that something is not right, you were already way past the point of no return.”

“This oppressive scheme of UPI and PARS wouldn’t have been totally successful without the knowledge, tolerance and support from individuals who acted on behalf of the School System. We cannot deny the fact that they cooperated with the recruiters or failed to object to actions that they knew were highly questionable if not downright illegal.”

While the East Baton Rouge School District was named as one of the respondents, Jomento-Cruz underscored that they have no animosity against their current employer. “We would like to make it clear that we harbor no ill will towards the Louisiana School System… The new superintendent has paid attention to our concerns and has closely monitored the problems we have encountered…Let me also use this opportunity to declare once again that we continue to have a strong commitment to our students, and will continue to serve the district for we believe that the actions by some individuals within the EBR School District do not represent the values of the institution and the people of Louisiana.”

“The exploitation of migrant workers is an ongoing and a growing problem here in the US. This lawsuit is again another arena of battle to expose these entities that are out to exploit migrant labor. PM joins the call for stronger legislation that will ensure the protection of the rights of migrant labor,” said Ian Seruelo, US Liaison officer of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM Labor Party).

According to the FEF statement, the objective of the legal action “is to ensure that these exploitative practices end now. We do not want this to happen to any other teachers who come here from the Philippines or anywhere else. And we can not stop these oppressive schemes unless everyone involved understand that they cannot simply look the other way when they encounter abusive practices by recruiters.”

Representing the Filipino teachers is a legal team assembled by the Southern Poverty Law Center and American Federation of Teachers (AFT). AFT and Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) have been instrumental in the struggle of the Filipino teachers. In the Philippines, PM and the PSLINK labor confederation are assisting the teachers’ efforts.


Anonymous said...

Louisiana Filipino Teachers (EBR-East Baton Rouge Parish School) H1-VISA, temporary working visas. On top of intent to extort monetary compensation from their school, many of these H1-VISA teachers filed for relief from the HURRICANE KATRINA knowingly that they were not affected. Their recruiter ask the teachers to return and compensation from the relief center because its immoral to take something that is from tax-payer's dollars which should only go to citizens who really need it. Most of them refuse to return the relief fund. The school had noted this action from the H1-visa teachers. What more do they want? They need more money by filing a class action suit against their school. They are supported heavily by the union (AFT/LFT) because they have a VEST INTEREST. The complain last October 2009 from the teachers, AFT/LFT and their lawyers to different government did not bear any evidence or truth in their claim. That's why nothing happen to their recruiters, school board members, etc. etc. The trial in the LWC (Louisiana Worforce Commission) was even eye-opening because they H1-VISA teachers on the stand got caught perjuring themselves by lying to the defense attorney. That is also noted. What more would they do to extort monetary compensation from our tax-dollars? They are asking for PITY for being recruited from the Philippines because an average teacher in the Philippines only makes around $200 dollars a month while now in (EBR) they make close to $6000 DOLLARS not including paid vacation, free medical, free dental, free vision, paid seminars, bonuses, etc. etc. hence, they make close to $85,000 a year with benefits. Now they want a complete refund for their travel, legal fees, and recruiter fees. These H1-visa teachers have their own group (FEF) Filipino Educator Federation of Louisiana. The names are the board members of these group MAIRI NUNEG-TANEDO, INGRID CRUZ, ROLANDO PASCUAL, DONNABEL ESCUADRA, TOMASA MARI, JAVE PAJUELAS, IAN CAINGLET. Make sure if you have a position in any school system in Louisiana is to watch out for these teachers who LOVES TO FILE LAWSUIT to extract monetary compensation from their employers. BEWARE!

Anonymous said...

This is just in from Louisiana Class action suit from FEF and AFT and others.

nandito na mga kapatid. ang school sa Louisiana 'NEW ROADS' at 'JEFFERSON PARISH' ay hindi re renew ang mga H1-VISA nila. tira ng tira kasi hindi alam anong aabutan. kayo din ang sumira sa sarili niyo.

Anonymous said...

Kami po ang mga teachers na nasama sa lawsuit na walang pahintulot sa amin. Kami po ay nag-sign ng manifesto (non-participation) sa mga eskuela namin. Yung FEFL, pamuno ni Ingrid Cruz at officers niya ay nag demanda nalang na pabigla bigla na hindi sinabi sa amin. Nawalan po ng trabaho ang mga kilala namin sa New Roads at Jefferson Parish next year. Natamaan po ang mga pamilya nila na wala namang trabaho doon. Wala po kaming pakialam sa Universal or Pars kasi tapos na ang bayad namin sa inutang namin. Gusto lang po namin na hintuhin sana nila itong lawsuit, kasi baka kami din ang pagiinitan ng school namin. Yun lang po. Salamat po sa inyo at mabuhay ang Partidong Mangagawa.