Monday, November 07, 2011

Fight Corporate Greed! Boycott PAL!

The sight of bedlam and confusion in NAIA’s Terminal 2 greeted us last September 27 as we watched the news on TV. The reason is not Typhoon Pedring but a man-made disaster: the mass termination of some 2, 600 employees of the Philippine Airlines.

While many passengers were understandably irate at the inconvenience, occasions missed, or loss of opportunities caused by cancelled flights, we believe and feel that things much bigger are at stake in what happened at the airport that day.

The first is our sense of justice. For ten years, from 1998 to 2008, the employees of PAL, organized as PALEA, agreed to suspend their CBA rights so that PAL, then in the abyss of bankruptcy, could survive and recover. When PAL recovered and started to profit big like last years’ P 3 billion, PALEA started to negotiate for a new CBA.
Lucio Tan’s reply is yes but after outsourcing 2, 600 jobs, meaning terminating 2, 600 workers as regular workers, and rehiring them to three outsourced companies owned by Lucio Tan also as contractuals with pay almost half what they used to get. After sacrificing, the employees have been disposed of.

At stake here is our sense of rights, human rights, labor rights.
The right to decent job, to job security is part of the right to work which is a basic human right, enshrined in international human rights covenants – the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (IESCR, 1976) and in our Constitution. But in the case of PAL, Lucio Tan brushed this aside, and Government through DOLE and the Office of the Executive Secretary became a willing partner by putting “management prerogative “ over fundamental rights. When PALEA staged a protest action, the protesting workers were thrown out of the airport and summarily dismissed and denied of separation pay and other legitimate entitlements.

At stake here is our national pride, our identity with this institution called PAL. Despite the Government’s decision to privatize PAL, we all grew up knowing that it is our nation’s flag carrier, our symbol in the sky, our representative in global aviation. We take pride in the excellent ability of its pilots and ground crew to provide safe and comfortable air travel and to respond effectively during emergencies and unexpected mishaps. Now this national symbolism is heavily tainted by a bare-faced and shameless oppression of our very own Filipino workers.

At stake here is our sense of solidarity and caring for fellow Filipinos, fellow workers and fellow human beings. What is a few hours of inconvenience or of flights delayed compared to months, even years of having no jobs or source of regular income for 2, 600 workers and their families if they lose in this fight? We all know what accompany the loss of job of a breadwinner: children unable to continue with their studies, less food on the table, little buffer against sickness, accidents, disaster and other misfortunes, and lowered dignity for the jobless parents and adult in the families. ALL THIS – TO MAKE THE SUPER-RICH LUCIO TAN EVEN RICHER.

We cannot allow this injustice to happen to our PALEA brothers and sisters! We support PALEA! We are all PALEANS!


(This blog supports the above statement released by the Freedom from Debt Coalition - Philippines)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

PM Statement On the Plight of Filipino Teachers of Maryland's PGCPS

(This is a position statement I prepared for Partido ng Manggagawa on the issue of the recent DOL decision that threatens the continued employment of Filipino Teachers in a school district in Maryland.)

Lured by the American dream, non-immigrant workers here in the US have been subjected to different forms of exploitation, manipulation and abuse. The complexities of the recruitment process are being taken advantage of by placement agencies and sometimes with the collaboration of representatives of US employers. Oftentimes foreign workers leave their country deep in debt in raising money needed to cover for exorbitant placement and other fees.

Recently, the US Department of Labor found Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools in willful violation of the laws governing the H1B temporary foreign worker program. The DOL cited the school district’s failure to pay the proper wages by virtue of deduction of fees that are supposed to be shouldered by the employer as required by law and its failure to maintain complete documentation.

The same decision also issues the following remedy as a penalty to the school district: (1) the school district is ordered to refund illegally collected fees to foreign teachers as back wages, and (2) debarring the school district for two years from participating in the H1B program. At face value it seems that this DOL decision is a victory to the foreign teachers who have been victims of illegal fees by their employers and also who have been the milking cow of placement agencies who practice shady recruitment schemes.

The problem with the recent DOL decision however is that the debarment of PGCPS from the H1B program will mean not only that the district wouldn’t be able to bring in new foreign teachers but also prohibiting them from filing for the renewal of existing teachers whose H1B visas are set to expire in the next two years. Further the district is prohibited from filing permanent visa sponsorships to those teachers who intends to continue serving their respective schools and become permanent residents of the US.

So in effect, this recent DOL decision will result in a series of termination of Filipino educators and other foreign teachers. Starting this month, more than 1,000 PGCPS teachers will be affected. In penalizing the school district, the DOL is in fact punishing the very victims of this illegal scheme by the employer and the recruitment agency.

We, at Partido ng Manggagawa, believe that the DOL decision is extremely flawed on the following grounds:

1) The DOL decision does not embody justice but on contrary represents appalling injustice. It is a slap on the wrist of the violator and punishes hard the very people who were victimized and originally made the complaint. Also, we can’t help but wonder why the DOL is silent on the role of the placement agency that clearly has some violations and is equally responsible as well.

2) The decision would be a powerful disincentive to other non-immigrant workers in similar circumstances to report illegal recruitment activities by US-based employers and placement agencies. This will discourage other victims from cooperating with DOL and CIS investigations. Foreign workers should be encouraged, not discouraged from filing complaints.

3) The decision sets a bad precedent in cases of other Filipino and foreign teachers who have exposed the anomalies in the process by which they were recruited. One specific example is the struggle of Filipino teachers in Louisiana who stood up for their rights and recently have filed a class suit against their recruitment agency and the school district. And the DOL also have an ongoing investigation on the circumstance of their recruitment.

4) With this decision, the DOL is party to an unfair labor practice that is equivalent to retaliatory action against teachers and union members who initiated complaints against their employer. This kind of ruling would be welcomed by employers who aim to terminate those employees who stand up against them.

5) This decision is also damaging to the interest of the children of Prince George County. These highly qualified foreign teachers have performed well in their responsibility to educate the children of the district. These children deserve these commendable teachers and it is a disservice to have these educators terminated.

It is with these points that the Partido ng Manggagawa is calling for the Department of Labor to retract its original decision and issue a ruling that is fair and just. We appeal to the Department of Labor to live up to its mission of promoting the welfare of working people.

We also call on the Philippine Embassy to intervene with urgency on this matter. We are aware that the embassy in Washington DC is coordinating some efforts. However, with several of these teachers’ visas expiring within this month, there is a need for our embassy to pursue immediate and stronger action. We believe that our embassy consider a possible lodging of a diplomatic protest as this is a clear injustice to our citizens -- our teachers who came here to help fill in the teachers’ shortage, sold their properties and were victimized by illegal and exorbitant charges, worked hard to educating American children, only to be terminated by a violation that they did not commit.

Lastly we call on all Filipino teachers of Prince George County to unite and move as one in pushing for your rights. The Filipino and the Filipino-American community are behind you. The workers movement is behind you. Stand up and let your voices be heard. It is imperative that you move together and you move now.

Mabuhay ang manggagawang Pilipino!

Mabuhay ang gurong Pilipino!


Renato Magtubo

Ian Seruelo
US - Liaison Officer

Friday, April 16, 2010

Stop oppressive forms of recruitment!

Today, I am featuring the statement of the Filipino teachers in Louisiana released on the day the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) heard their case.

Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana
Press Statement
April 5, 2010

Stop oppressive forms of recruitment!
Scrap the unjust UPI teacher contracts!

We, members of the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana, call for the immediate end to the oppressive recruitment practices of Universal Placement International (UPI) and the scrapping of the unjust contract that were forced on the teachers. We are victims of these practices and have banded together as an organization to assert our rights and advocate for the protection of the rights of migrant teachers and workers as a whole.

We join all the Filipino teachers who share our aspiration for justice. We fully support the efforts of our fellow educators under the banner of the American Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. We are not doing this only for ourselves and our families but also to the hundreds more who stand to be victimized if these excessively unjust practices are not stopped.

Our members will be testifying in today’s hearing to put on record the oppression we have experienced and the onerous contracts that were forced on the Filipino teachers under the threat of being “deported” or deprived of a job. We have experienced different forms of intimidation and manipulation that was aimed solely to strengthen the grip of tyranny of Lulu Navarro over all of us.

Filipino teachers have suffered from excessive and illegal fees and up to now our families are burdened with heavy debts back home. We have endured verbal threats and legal bullying to make us submit to the whims of the placement agency.

Indeed Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, the owner of UPI, is not new to such criminal behavior as she is a convicted felon in the State of California on several counts of Medi-Cal fraud, grand theft, money laundering and identity theft.

We call on the Louisiana Workforce Commission to give relief to the migrant Filipino teachers deployed in the different school districts in Louisiana who have showed dedication to their vocation and commitment to quality education. We call on the commission to stand with the foreign teachers who have showed perseverance to make a difference in the lives of the children of Louisiana despite their horrible circumstances.

We appeal on the honorable commission to nullify the lopsided contract that is being utilized by Universal Placement International as a tool to oppress these migrant teachers. We appeal on the commission to stand by Louisiana’s public policy and tell the world that these inhumane practices have no place in the State; that no legal technicality can provide a smokescreen for repression.

We also enjoin all other Filipino teachers who share these experiences to come out and stand up for your rights. Let us broaden our unities against this injustice and together pursue our dreams for our families with dignity.

We call on all workers and parents here in Louisiana to support our cause for justice as this is not simply an issue about recruitment but an issue that concerns a grossly immoral and deceitful practice aimed at enriching a person at the expense of others. This issue is imbued with public interest as it concerns the education of our children.

Today, as we struggle for justice, we renew our commitment to serve the needs of the different school districts in the State of Louisiana. We enjoin the public in our aspiration to end all oppressive forms of recruitment. Join us in our call to put a stop to the illegal operations of Universal Placement International and the nullity of these burdensome teachers’ contracts.

Friday, October 09, 2009

TFC Balitang America on Case Filed vs Illegal Recruiter

The legal battle has begun. Here is a follow up story on TFC Balitang America about the developments on the issue of the Filipino teachers in Louisiana. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its Louisiana Federation (LFT) filed cases against the abusive recruitment agency.

Monday, September 14, 2009

TFC Adobo Nation Program on LA Teachers

Universal Placement International (UPI) is now getting free advertising from The Filipino Channel. The problem is: what is being advertised is how this placement agency exploits its clients!

Let's help our compatriots in their struggle against this illegal recruiter by signing on their online petition at

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Migrant teachers’ rights should be protected

I would like to share to everyone a press statement by the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM – Philippines) regarding the recent termination of more than 30 Filipino teachers under the East Baton Rouge School District in Louisiana.

Press Statement
June 10, 2009

Migrant teachers’ rights should be protected

The Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party – Philippines) is deeply concerned about the welfare of Filipino teachers who are deployed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We have an ongoing probe into the plight of these migrant Filipino teachers. Our party is saddened that they have been subjected to iniquitous treatment and are still expose to very hard circumstances.

Leaving their families back home to be able to pursue the American dream, these teachers risked everything thinking that their credentials and talents will get them through.

Definitely, these people have discovered that following this dream is not at all easy. Hard work, it seems, is not even enough. In their case, they have to put themselves and their families in deep indebtedness, risk all their families’ resources for a shot at their dream of being financially successful in the future.

What is mainly pulling them down, however, is their being subject to a manipulative placement agency whose only objective it seems is to squeeze the maximum payments from them. What the agency is employing is clearly a form of debt bondage. Universal Placement International, headed by Lourdes Navarro, has put in place a web of policies and measures to ensure that these teachers would all be fully dependent upon the agency. Navarro employs threats, intimidation and deceit to ensure conformity from these teachers.

Many of these teachers are left with no choices but to kowtow to the placement agency’s whims as they are threatened by Navarro that she can have them fired. In many opportunities she makes it a point to assert to the teachers that she can influence some people in the EBR school district.

While, this is clearly a manipulative tactic utilized by Navarro, we can not blame the teachers from feeling threatened as it is the future of their respective families that are at stake.

Now, what makes this more distressing is the fact that at least 34 of these teachers have been terminated by the school district. We are anxious about the welfare of these Filipino workers.

Upon review of the circumstances leading to their termination, we believe that the process the school district employed may have violated the rights of these workers or at the very least has lapses that could have been handled better.

For one, there is lack of transparency as to the process of evaluation of these teachers’ performance. According to several teachers we talked to, there are no clear cut guidelines or procedure as to what can constitute termination and what the correct process should be.

Further, the school district should know fully well that foreign teachers will encounter issues related to differences in culture. The school district can not also discount the fact that aside from being in a new environment, the usual support system of these teachers, which are their family and friends, is not around.

While there maybe mentorship or training opportunities available for the teachers, some of those teachers who were terminated arrived in the latter part of 2008 and were not yet able to undergo these trainings. Take note that most of those terminated have been exposed to US schools for only less than a year.

As many of these teachers are in an adjustment phase, we believe that other constructive options were not seriously considered. A good example would be a transfer program in which teachers can be reassigned to other schools within the district where they may be able to perform better based on each teacher’s strengths and weaknesses.

And the fact that the school district, according to its associate superintendent for human resources, Elizabeth Duran Swinford, erroneously stated the reason for the termination of some teachers as “noncompliant” and will have them “refired” leaves a bad taste in the mouth. If they are taking these matters seriously, how come that the most important information on the termination papers, which is the rationale behind the termination, is wrong?

The school district’s action of terminating these teachers in a hasty process suggests that they treat labor, particularly migrant labor, as a commodity that can easily be disposed of. These teachers are human beings and they have families to feed and children to send to school.

We want to make it clear that we are not asking that special treatment be afforded to Filipino teachers. What we are advocating is the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and the whole laboring sector.

Lastly, PM strongly believes that labor rights are human rights and we believe that regardless of residence status, these rights should be guaranteed to all workers. Citizen, migrant or whatever your status maybe, the rights of a worker should be respected. ###