Filipino Educators Federation (FEF) – Louisiana
August 5, 2010
Two to three years ago, we made a big sacrifice. We decided to leave our country and start a new life as teachers in a foreign land. At first, we were hesitant to leave our families, our children and our friends; our very own community and the pupils whom we have served and learned to love.
However, the aspiration of securing a better future for our families made our decision easier. We all believe that America is a land full of promise – a promise of opportunity for ourselves and stable future for our families.
So we started our journey, sacrificed all to raise the needed resources, borrowed money from lending agencies, put ourselves deep in debt, selling our properties, resigned from our respective jobs, practically putting in line the very future of our children, of our families.
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.
Of course, 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. This is tantamount to aiding and abetting the illegal and oppressive operation of the recruitment agency.
We, members of the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana, would like to make it clear that we harbor no ill will towards the Louisiana School System. We want to emphasize that we love this community and we now consider Louisiana as our home. We think of our students as our own kids. The new superintendent has paid attention to our concerns and has closely monitored the problems we have encountered. And we have had tremendous support from the East Baton Rouge community. We will continue to give our 100 percent to our teaching vocation as we strive to push our students for a brighter future. 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.
Now, we are here before you to make public our filing of a class action lawsuit against these abusive recruitment agencies and against all others who are responsible in perpetrating these serious violations against human dignity.
This is going to be a long battle but we are steadfast in our resolve to correct the wrongs that were committed. We are here to assert that there is no room for these oppressive and exploitative schemes in a civilized society. The goal of our lawsuit 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.
We have learned a lot from these experiences, from these struggles. And we are very fortunate to have the support of the American Federation of Teachers, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the East Baton Rouge Parish Federation of Teachers, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the law firm Covington and Burling, and the Filipino community here in Louisiana; as well as Philippine-based groups that work with us, the PSLINK labor confederation and the Philippine labor party. We owe a great deal to all of them for they have given us the courage and support to stand up for our rights and have magnified our voice when nobody listened.
Now as we continue to embark on our enduring journey, we call on our colleagues in the Louisiana School System and to the public to support our cause as this is not just a migrant teachers issue but an issue of public interest, an issue that concerns respect for human rights and an issue that concerns the education of our children.
Justice to Filipino migrant teachers! Justice to all migrant workers!