October 1, 2009
Statement by Randi Weingarten, President,
American Federation of Teachers,
On the Exploitation of Filipino Teachers Working in Louisiana
AFT affiliates in Louisiana today alleged that Universal Placement International Inc., which recruits teachers from the Philippines to work in school districts across the state, violated state laws, charged teachers exorbitant and illegal fees, and told teachers they could lose their jobs and visas if payments were not made. The allegations, supported by accompanying evidence, were included in a formal complaint filed yesterday with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
WASHINGTON—If official investigations bear out the allegations—and we believe they will—then the ugly truth is that teachers are being treated like chattel in the United States, in the 21st century, with the support of tax dollars.
To end this practice, we are calling for Louisiana state officials to take steps to protect these teachers from further exploitation, to thoroughly investigate the allegations, to seek the return of any fees collected illegally, to aggressively prosecute the recruiter if violations are found, to enforce existing state laws to prevent future abuses, and to enact additional laws to regulate recruitment agencies.
The sad picture painted in this complaint brings to mind some of the worst worker abuses in our students’ history books: indentured servitude, debt bondage and labor contracts signed under duress. We need to put this part of our history, once and for all, behind us.
Earlier this month, the AFT released a report about the practice of using third-party recruiters to place teachers from other countries in schools. “Importing Educators: Causes and Consequences of International Teacher Recruitment,” available online at www.aft.org, includes statistics about the practice nationwide, descriptions of abuses across the country, and recommendations to prevent abuse and exploitation of teachers.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.