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Home > India > Business > PTI > Report

Indian workers stage 'water only' strike before White House

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | May 15, 2008 17:01 IST

A group of Indian workers staged a 'water only' strike in front of the White House demanding that the Indian government take up the issue of their 'exploitation' by American companies with the United States.

Backed by a major American labour organisation, the workers, who alleged exploitation by their previous employer Mississippi shipyard Signal International, said that two more groups of 15 people each were scheduled to join them on May 15 and May 28.

"If we, the workers of India, can have the courage to talk to US Congressman and US federal authorities, then surely the Indian government can do the same, so that no other Indian worker suffers as we did," they said in a statement issued by the New Orleans Workers Centre for Racial Justice.

The workers, who are now facing immigration problems as they are no longer with Signal on H2 visa originally issued to them, are urging the Indian government to press the US for a Congressional investigation and the right for the workers to remain safely here during an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into the case.

The organisers of the strike said that their protest will be moving to the doorsteps of the Indian Embassy in front of the Gandhi Statue starting this Saturday.

The American Federation of Labourers-Congress of Industrial Organizations termed the workers effort 'courageous', according to a media release issued by the Centre.

"The AFL-CIO and its 10 million members are proud to support the hunger strike by these Signal workers, and their campaign to shed light on the abuses of the US Government's H2B guest worker programme," Jon Hiatt, general counsel for AFL-CIO said.

In March, some 120 workers walked off their jobs from Signal protesting deplorable working conditions as also saying that there were duped by recruiters over promises of green cards.

"We know the US is a powerful country, and we know that Signal is a powerful company. That is why we are asking the Indian government to support us as we stand here with our lives shattered," said hunger striker Muruganantham Kandhasami in a statement issued by the organisers.

"Until we get all three demands, we are standing here to strike until the end," he added.

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