US judge says Filipino teachers’ case falls under human trafficking law
BATON ROUGE — A Los Angeles federal judge has ruled that the conditions that Filipino teachers were subjected to when brought to Louisiana qualifies their case to be heard under the federal human trafficking law.
According to DailyWorld.com, US District Judge John A. Kronstadt’s ruling is the first time the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) would be applied to a class of people, instead of individuals.
The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit, on behalf of Filipino teachers, against the East Baton Rouge Parish Board (EBRSB), primarily the superintendent’s office.
Also involved are the companies the school board worked with, based in Manila and Los Angeles. An official in the EBRSB superintendent’s office facilitated the importation of teachers and conducted interviews in Manila.
Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which brought the teachers’ plight to light, said Tuesday “I’m not proud that we had to deal with this in Louisiana.
“I am proud that that we seemed to kick the ball off to get redress for these teachers,” he said. “Aiding in the pursuit of justice makes me quite proud.”
Starting in 2007, more than 350 Filipino teachers were brought to Louisiana to fill vacancies in several school districts across the state. Filipino teachers also were brought into the US for positions in other states but only the Louisiana teachers filed suit over their treatment.
They had to pay exorbitant fees, by Filipino standards, to get here and were required to relinquish a portion of their salaries to companies that recruited them and arranged transportation and work visas. They paid high interest rates to the lender the company required them to use.
The teachers testified in a Louisiana Workforce Development hearing that went in their favor that they were crowded into apartments and charged more than the rent charged the other tenants. They were told who they could communicate with. They also could not leave the US because the companies confiscated their passports until they paid the assessments.
The federal lawsuit, Nunag Tanedo v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, was filed in August 2010. The teachers are represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Federation of Teachers and the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP.
A trial is scheduled in July.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.