Friday, April 16, 2010

Sweet Victory

Teachers and to all our supporters, we are so excited and happy to announce that the decision of the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) is very favorable to our cause! Congratulations to all those who keep the fire burning! Congratulations to those brave souls who stood as witnesses on our behalf! Kudos to AFT and LFT for their dedication to our cause! Bravo to the leaders and members of the Filipino Educators Federation for the needed leadership.

May this victory mean the strengthening of our efforts for justice and our advocacies to protect the rights of migrant teachers and workers. Let us remember that this development is not the end but is just a new beginning in our struggle. We expect that UPI will appeal and challenge the decision. We expect that there will be more arenas of battle. However, today we have a good reason to celebrate. But yes, the fight for justice goes on!

A Quick Review of the Findings

Despite UPI’s flimsy attempt to reclassify its operations and skirt the law, the Commission concluded that UPI is indeed operating as an employment service in the State of Louisiana as defined in the LPES (Louisiana Private Employment Service) law. As such UPI violated the said law by operating without first obtaining the requisite license. On top of that, below are the other findings of the Commission.

1. “The evidence established that UPI charged the teacher applicants a "marketing fee" which is prohibited by La. R.S. 23:111 B(2).”

2. “The evidence established that UPI collected placement fees from the teacher applicants "prior to actual commencement of work" in violation of Section 107.A.5 of Title 40 of the Louisiana Administrative Code.”

3. “The evidence established that UPI collected fees from teacher applicants who did not ultimately commence work on the job procured by UPI in violation of La. R.S. 23:111 B(3)(e) and Section 107.A.6 of Title 40 of the Louisiana Administrative Code.”

4. “The evidence established that UPI's contracts with the teacher applicants obligated the teachers to pay UPI a fee of 10% of the teacher's gross monthly income for the first 24 months of employment. This contractual provision violates La. R.S 23:111 B(3)(a) which limits an employment services fees to the applicant's first year's gross earnings.”

5. “The evidence established that UPI violated La. R.S 23:111 B(3)(b) which requires the employment service to adjust its fee upward or downward based on the actual gross earnings of the applicant.”

A Summary of the Awards and Penalties

With the findings above, the Commission ordered the following awards:

1. “UPI is hereby ordered to pay a fine to the Louisiana Workforce Commission in the amount of $500 for violating the LPES by operating an employment service in Louisiana without first obtaining the requisite license and otherwise failing to comply with the LPES as set forth herein.”

2. “The Commission does hereby order UPI to pay litigation expenses in the amount of $7,500.00 jointly to the AFT, LFT and Avoyelles Parish Intervenors as the prevailing parties.”

3. “The placement fees paid by the Filipino teachers were charged by UPI, an unlicensed employment service, in violation of Louisiana's Private Employment Service regulatory scheme. UPI is ordered to refund the placement fees paid by the Filipino teachers to UPI.”

4. “This Commission does not have the power to impose a criminal sanction on the Defendant. The matter will be referred to the appropriate authorities as the Director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission may deem necessary.”

The LWC decision however falls short of nullifying the contract as it underscores that that is outside the powers granted to it by the law. The decision says, “The LWC is without authority to declare the contract between two parties null.” What is clear is that LWC finds the contracts in violation of the statute in several counts. And according to the AFT lawyer, if UPI “seeks to enforce the contracts in a court of law, the court would use the LWC decision to declare the contracts void.”

Monday, April 5, 2010

Stop oppressive forms of recruitment! Scrap the unjust UPI teacher contracts!

The newly formed organization of Filipino teachers, the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana, sent us the statement below in time for today's hearing of the case filed against UPI with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana
Press Statement
April 5, 2010

Stop oppressive forms of recruitment!
Scrap the unjust UPI teacher contracts!

We, members of the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana, call for the immediate end to the oppressive recruitment practices of Universal Placement International (UPI) and the scrapping of the unjust contract that were forced on the teachers. We are victims of these practices and have banded together as an organization to assert our rights and advocate for the protection of the rights of migrant teachers and workers as a whole.

We join all the Filipino teachers who share our aspiration for justice. We fully support the efforts of our fellow educators under the banner of the American Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. We are not doing this only for ourselves and our families but also to the hundreds more who stand to be victimized if these excessively unjust practices are not stopped.

Our members will be testifying in today’s hearing to put on record the oppression we have experienced and the onerous contracts that were forced on the Filipino teachers under the threat of being “deported” or deprived of a job. We have experienced different forms of intimidation and manipulation that was aimed solely to strengthen the grip of tyranny of Lulu Navarro over all of us.

Filipino teachers have suffered from excessive and illegal fees and up to now our families are burdened with heavy debts back home. We have endured verbal threats and legal bullying to make us submit to the whims of the placement agency.

Indeed Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, the owner of UPI, is not new to such criminal behavior as she is a convicted felon in the State of California on several counts of Medi-Cal fraud, grand theft, money laundering and identity theft.

We call on the Louisiana Workforce Commission to give relief to the migrant Filipino teachers deployed in the different school districts in Louisiana who have showed dedication to their vocation and commitment to quality education. We call on the commission to stand with the foreign teachers who have showed perseverance to make a difference in the lives of the children of Louisiana despite their horrible circumstances.

We appeal on the honorable commission to nullify the lopsided contract that is being utilized by Universal Placement International as a tool to oppress these migrant teachers. We appeal on the commission to stand by Louisiana’s public policy and tell the world that these inhumane practices have no place in the State; that no legal technicality can provide a smokescreen for repression.

We also enjoin all other Filipino teachers who share these experiences to come out and stand up for your rights. Let us broaden our unities against this injustice and together pursue our dreams for our families with dignity.

We call on all workers and parents here in Louisiana to support our cause for justice as this is not simply an issue about recruitment but an issue that concerns a grossly immoral and deceitful practice aimed at enriching a person at the expense of others. This issue is imbued with public interest as it concerns the education of our children.

Today, as we struggle for justice, we renew our commitment to serve the needs of the different school districts in the State of Louisiana. We enjoin the public in our aspiration to end all oppressive forms of recruitment. Join us in our call to put a stop to the illegal operations of Universal Placement International and the nullity of these burdensome teachers’ contracts.