The case was brought on behalf of guestworkers who say they were lured to teach in Louisiana public schools only to be forced into exploitive contracts by labor contractors. The lawsuit accuses officials of two labor contractors – Universal Placement International, based in Los Angeles, and its sister organization, Manila-based PARS International Placement Agency – of human trafficking and racketeering.
The teachers began arriving in the United States in 2007 as part of the H-1B guestworker program, which is administered by the Department of Labor and permits foreign nationals with special skills to work in the United States for a period of up to six years. Most teachers paid about $16,000, several times the average household income in the Philippines, in order to obtain their jobs.
U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt issued an order Monday forbidding Grand Isle Shipyard and DNR-Offshore and Crewing, one of the recruiting agencies named in the suit, from contacting the 20 plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Joseph Peiffer of the New Orleans-based law firm Fishman Haygood Phelps Walmsley Willis & Swanson, said the request for an injunction was filed because the plaintiffs were receiving threatening messages. Officials with Grand Isle Shipyard and DNR-Offshore wanted the suit dropped, he said.
These messages included threats of deportation and suggestions the suit should be dropped “for the good of (one of the worker’s) kids,” the court papers allege. [Emphasis added]