A New York Times expose last week revealed the grave mistreatment of Vietnamese welders, duped into coming to the United States only to be fired and left broke through a calculated multi-national kind of human trafficking scheme. The workers considered a return to Vietnam, but received threats from the labor company who had sent them to the U.S. The entire article, “In Debt, Far From Home and Claiming Servitude,” is troubling. An excerpt is below…
Tony Buzbee, a lawyer for the welders, said his clients were forced into a form of indentured servitude. Not only did they pay thousands of dollars in fees to Vietnamese companies, but they were charged high prices by their American employers for run-down housing, transportation to work and other expenses.
The workers say the American company that arranged for their travel and housing — ILP Agency LLC — also took their passports and kept them isolated, telling them the police would arrest and deport them if they left the building where they lived.
The welders said they had paid agents for the Vietnamese government-affiliated companies — Interserco and Vinamotors — fees of $6,500 to $15,000. In return, they said they were promised two and a half years of steady work in the United States, making $15 an hour.
Most mortgaged their homes and borrowed from relatives and friends to make the payments in early 2009. Some borrowed from the labor-export companies themselves, handing over the deeds to their houses.
But Coast to Coast Resources Inc., the Texas company that transported them to Houston and hired them out to a shipyard, let them go in February 2009, after only eight months of work, because their work visas had expired and the United States Department of Labor would not renew them, court documents show.
The workers owed thousands of dollars they could not repay on the low wages in Vietnam. Most rejected an offer from the owner of ILP Agency to buy them plane tickets home. A few sought help from a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who had come to their door and left a business card.