US Judge Rules Human Trafficking Law Applies To Filipino Teachers’ Case

by Jun Medina

BATON ROUGE — A Los Angeles federal judge ruled that the case of Filipino teachers brought to Louisiana and then subjected to allegedly abusive conditions qualifies to be heard under the federal human trafficking law.

U.S. 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, reports the

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 U.S for positions in other states, but only the Louisiana teachers filed suit over their treatment.

They claim 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 with whom they could communicate . They also could not leave the U.S. because the companies confiscated their passports until they paid the assessments.

The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit, on behalf of Pinoy teachers, against the East Baton Rouge Parish Board (EBRSB), primarily the superintendent’s office.

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.

Also targets 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. Trial is scheduled in July..

Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which brought the teachers’ plight to light, said Tuesday (Jan. 17) “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.”

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