July 11, 2007 The Pump Handle 0Comment

Federal officials have arrested three men in Las Vegas, saying they “enslaved more than 20 members of a Chinese acrobatic team, feeding them little, paying them next to nothing to perform, and confiscating their passports and visas,” the Associated Press reports.

In the Seattle Weekly, Sarah Stuteville and Alex Stonehill tell the story of one of the 194 Thai workers who are suing a labor contractor and an orchard who brought the workers to the U.S. and employed them under a guest worker program. Thai farmer Wisit Kampilo mortgaged his father’s home to pay $11,000 to a recruiter who told him to expect 28 months of work at $8.50 per hour; he reports that he was then paid only $7 an hour and the work dried up after four months. Workers were allegedly housed in substandard conditions and had their movements strictly controlled by the contractors, who also confiscated workers’ passports.

In other news:

Associated Press: The trial is set to begin in a case of Nicaraguan banana workers who claim they were left sterile after exposure to the pesticide DBCP. 

East African Standard: Workers on Kenyan flower plantations face chemical hazards and dangerous living conditions.

Independent: Six years ago, two Colombian union leaders who’d been working to improve conditions at a Drummond coal company mine were assassinated. Now, a federal jury in Alabama is hearing claims that Drummond, which is being sued under the Alien Tort Claim Act, hired a paramilitary group to murder the men.

Associated Press: Despite a free government program, only roughly 16 percent of Kentucky miners get screened for black lung; many avoid it because they fear losing their jobs. (Also see the Louisville Courier-Journal’s black lung series, which Celeste Monforton covered when it came out.)

Charleston Gazette: After two Senate rejections of his nominee to head the Office of Surface Mining, President Bush has nominated longtime OSM official Brent Wahlquist for the post.

Associated Press: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill report that day care centers with improved equipment for changing diapers, washing hands and preparing food record fewer illnesses and absences in children and staff. The improvements, which include automatic faucets, foot-activated rollout bins for diaper disposal, and impermeable foot preparation services, cost around $10,000.

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