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Halliburton hires 'Gulf Coast slaves' for hurricane cleanup - Salon
15 Nov. 2005

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- Halliburton's KBR subsidiary and its subcontractors illegally abuse immigrants and undocumented workers in hurricane-damaged areas of the Gulf Coast, Roberto Lovato of Salon.com reported today.

In an article titled "Gulf Coast slaves," Lovato writes of his travels throughout the storm-ravaged region where KBR's cleanup contracts currently amount to $124.9 million. He observed "squalid trailer parks where up to 19 unpaid, unfed and undocumented KBR site workers inhabited a single trailer for $70 per person, per week." Many suffer from work-related health problems, including diarrhea, sprained ankles, cuts and bruises acquired while working for KBR.

At one point, many undocumented workers were thrown off the job and forced to live in the streets of New Orleans after Halliburton refused for two months to pay a subcontractor. Seventy-four workers filed a complaint with the Department of Labor seeking $56,000 in back pay.

A Halliburton subcontractor even threatened several Latino workers with deportation if they left the Belle Chasse military base in Louisiana, where an estimated 500 immigrants are employed.

Halliburton denies violating labor laws, but immigration enforcement officials discovered undocumented workers at the Belle Chasse facility in October. "Visits to the naval bases and dozens of interviews by Salon confirm that undocumented workers are in the facilities," wrote Lovato.

As in Iraq, workers from poor countries are lured to the Gulf Coast by KBR's shady job brokers peddling exaggerated wages and benefits that rarely materialize after immigrants arrive for work. "They were going to pay seven dollars an hour, and the food was going to be free, and rent, but they gave us nothing," a teenage worker from Mexico told Lovato. "They weren't feeding us. We ate cookies for five days. Cookies, nothing else," he said.

The CEO of Texas-based DRS Cosmotech, a KBR subcontractor, hung-up the phone on Lovato after he identified himself as a reporter. The CEO had reportedly promised workers they would be living in hotels or houses, but were provided tents instead.

"A shadowy labyrinth of contractors, subcontractors and job brokers, overseen by no single agency, have created a no man's land where nobody seems to be accountable for the hiring -- and abuse -- of these workers," reported Lovato. The lack of accountability is an "open invitation for exploitation, fraud and abuse," said James Hale, vice president of the Laborers' International Union of North America.

Read the explosive article on Salon.com by clicking here.