Sweeping Dirt Under the Carpet | Letters | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Sweeping Dirt Under the Carpet 

Indentured servitude; toxic-land development

Wednesday, Mar 11 2009

Modern Slavery in L.A.

Regarding “Enslaved in Surburbia: Inside the World of Trafficked Indentured Servants and the Visa Violators Who Care for Our Old,” by Gendy Alimurung [February 19]: This is the best article I’ve ever read about human trafficking, and there have been a lot in the mainstream media. I like how the author managed to steer clear of the typical sensationalism and focus on the true nature of the problem. This article is extremely well-written and manages to convey complex ideas in deceptively simple language.

Posted by Kevin, L.A.

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I am a Los Angeles native living in Dubai and working as a journalist. Unfortunately this story is indeed an everyday reality, especially here. Filipinos are the indentured servants here as well, making, at best, $250 per month for labor-intensive jobs, 13 hours a day, six days a week.

One restaurant worker contacted me and asked me to help him. I don’t know what to do or how I can help but akin to the story I just read, all the workers’ stories here seem to have a common thread of lies. It’s pathetic and greedy but it happens.

Don’t even get me started on the construction workers from India and Pakistan. Their exploitation is worse.

Posted by Private, Dubai, UAE

I am very appreciative to the Weekly for this article. But I do want to address one thing I felt was missing. The author asks, “Why does this happen?” and notes the demand as a major part of the problem, saying the “First World clamor[s] for someone, anyone, to do disagreeable, menial tasks.” I would like to take that a bit further. Yes, we all need to think twice before we buy products made in Chinese sweatshops, despite how removed we feel from the inhuman production process of the items we consume. But we also need to think hard about what in our culture could possibly make people (doctors and executives, no less, with plenty of disposable income) think it is okay to enslave and mistreat people so directly. It is one thing to buy products made in sweatshops, which we should certainly all steer away from. But it is another thing to work your housekeeper 18 hours a day and leave her only a dog bed to sleep on.

Posted by Julie, Venice

California should spend lots of money to start a program using whatever means necessary to encourage enslaved workers to come out and fight for their rights. Advertise on TV, newspapers, etc., and provide phone numbers for them to call the right agencies for help. Be sure to let them know that a green card will be waiting for them at the end of it.

Posted by Lawonda, L.A.

There is also exploitation of Filipino illegal immigrants at the “professional” level here in L.A. Go to ANY jewelry store or manufacturer downtown, and take a look at who’s in the office doing the books. These jewelers have for years been hiring Filipino accountants for $15 an hour, rather than pay the market rate to an American accountant. Same goes with some accounting firms in Encino and property-management firms in Hancock Park. I know one Filipina accountant who told me résumés from American accountants were thrown away immediately at the place where she worked as an accountant for very low wages. These business owners should be jailed, but of course they won’t because they contribute significantly to their L.A. City Council reps and to Mayor Villaraigosa. They think they are untouchable — and sadly they are.

Inhuman treatment of these illegal immigrants is appalling and the traffickers and “clients” are wrong to profit from their exploitation. However, there is a certain amount of duplicity, “greed” and disregard for the law of another country exhibited by anyone who goes so far as to learn enough martial-arts moves to pass as an Olympic athlete in order to gain entry to that country just because it pays better wages than where that person is living. But there will always be a supply as long as there is a demand. The end to all this lies with employers — whether private citizens with housekeepers or large construction firms employing hundreds for cheap labor. Our economy’s addiction to that cheap labor, and the corruption and greed of the governments of nations that supply it, are the roots of the problem and it must be cut off there.

Posted by Brian, North Hollywood

Regarding “San Fernando Valley’s Galaxy of Chemical Goo,” by Michael Collins [March 5]:

Government bureaucracy is boring and difficult to translate for most citizens. One has to wonder how much of that mind-numbing drivel is designed to act as a very effective cover for deeds not intended for public discussion.

This is the perfect example of midlevel droids disguising potentially great harm where the apparent manifestation of human suffering will be delayed for decades. Of course, at that point, those responsible for the magnificent corporate profits generated by this development will have vanished into the (radioactive) mists of time. And everyone will then say, “Such a shame.”

You can’t remember what you don’t know in the first place.

Posted by Joan Bien, Moorpark

I am very grateful to L.A. Weekly and Michael Collins. No one is against the development of a beautiful business park and high-end jobs, but as neighbors, we think we deserve an Environmental Impact Report. Most of the employees who worked at the former Hughes/Raytheon site did not know they sat on contaminated groundwater and soil. They thought there was only office work going on — a beautiful “think tank.” Now the new owners want to sweep the dirt under the carpet with the help of Los Angeles Planning, the City Council members and the Los Angeles mayor. With the help of Michael Collins and L.A. Weekly, it is not a secret any longer. The government and agencies are not going to protect us — there is no profit in that. We are on our own.

Posted by Bonnie Klea, West Hills

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