US Big Oil Paying Foreign Workers 1/2 Min. Wage on Gulf Oil Rigs

Business Week has an amazing story up about US oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico replacing American workers paid $18 hour with foreign laborers paid a fraction of that amount.

To Daryl Johnson of Orange, Tex., work as a rigger on pipe-laying barges seemed like a pretty sure bet. The pay was good—$18.50 an hour—and with oil exploration booming, Johnson felt secure with Houston-based Horizon Offshore Contractors, which had hired him in 1999. But Johnson, speaking through his attorney, says he got concerned when managers told him there were no openings for friends whom he referred for jobs, even while Horizon continued to hire Mexican and Malaysian nationals. Then, in 2007, Johnson lost his job. "They gave me no explanation," says Johnson......

Ireland said a contractor such as OWI would recruit workers from communities such as the Iban tribe in the jungles of Malaysia. The recruited workers were taken to the U.S. embassy in their home countries, where they told the embassy that they would work on foreign-flagged vessels. That would place them outside the requirements of U.S. labor and immigration laws. The staffing firm then flew the workers to Houston or another Gulf-area location, Ireland said, where it informed customs that the workers were going to work for foreign vessels offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. After clearing customs, they would then be picked up by a shipping agent, taken to a shore-based helicopter base, and then to vessels offshore.....

Once aboard the vessels, the workers are paid 20%-40% of what a U.S. worker such as Johnson would earn, says the plaintiff's attorney. For example, Jenggi Kaloum, an Iban worker for Stolt Offshore referenced in the 2005 Ireland deposition, was paid $40 per 12-hour day, while an American worker would make $200 or more per day for the same work. Kaloum could not be reached for comment. Once offshore, the workers can remain on vessels for 150 days in a row, earning no overtime, says Buzbee. He says the workers are paid only when they return to their home countries with money routed by the staffing firm.

I'm going to get to writing a full blog piece about this later. I've located the some of the court documents they refer too, and want to look through them. Remember that these oil fields are leased by the US government to these firms, and are in US territorial waters. I'm confused why US flagged vessels aren't required for this work. As I understand it vessels that embark and debark for US ports without making call at a foreign port must be American flagged according to federal law.

Regardless, this is pretty damn blazen given the fight going on about expanding offshore drilling. I wonder if the Lou Dobbs show has heard of this?

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it's so bad

believe it or not Democrats (yes that's our party) passed some massive Visa increase today out of committee and even worse, the United States is trying to approve more guest worker Visas via the WTO.

They are just hell bent on selling out the US worker and it's incredibly sad.


I know that you don't mean too, but don't forget the foreign worker being paid only $2.86 hour.

This is yet another case in which prevailing wage law (From the port at which the depart for the rig) should apply.

prevailing wage

They will claim those exist, but they were written by immigration attorneys (yes the same people lobbying for more Visas) to circumvent paying equal wages.

Honestly, there are so many people on the blogs focused in on the foreign worker (and yes I do care about the foreign worker) I tend to focus on what is happening to the US worker. On that front it seems perfectly acceptable to poop all over US workers by many of the left frankly but if they are a citizen of another nation, well then, it's all different.

S.1035 which would reform H-1B, L-1 is actually a great bill for guest worker rights as well as US labor rights so you don't have to be "one or the other" by reforms desired.

Just a side comment on the whole scene.

Gotta love that a lot of rhetoric about "racism" and "xenophobia" comes from these very same immigration attorneys making a huge business from processing these Visas and of course enabling corporations and employers to pay foreign workers much less and displace US workers!


All the indicators suggest there is no shortage of skilled workers

Introducing even more lower cost labor to the pool at a time when we are shedding jobs is madness.

Why is it that many of the left fail to understand how important middle and working class prosperity is to our national security and long term economic health? Little wonder that the left has struggled in the inbdustrial midwest in recent years - they no longer care about labor - the very forces that put the left back into power in congress.

This is another example of the DOL failing to do it's job

The Department of Labor is a completely useless organization. They fail to investigate these actions, and act as if slavery was never outlawed in this country.

There is no way that this is legal -- every officer of these companies, all of the way up the chain should be indicted.

We need to get up off of our butts and start marching in the streets before everyone in this country is replaced by cheap foreign labor.

Corrupt More than Useless

Chau has defined her job as Secretary as finding as much cheap labor for business as possible - the Cheap Labor Department. It is surprising that she is so openly corrupt.

Burton Leed