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The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

Sign Your Own Death Warrant?

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

May 11, 2010

By Perry Redd

Why am I not surprised?  Corporations in America have no shame in taking it to the limit.  They have no reservation in going over the line.  David Kinnaird, BP’s liaison to Plaquemines Parish, spent Saturday night ripping up the contracts that hundreds of local commercial fishermen had signed to work for BP cleaning up the slick that could wipe out the local seafood industry.  They wanted to kill people and not accept responsibility for doing it…the American way.

It’s not that BP didn’t want to hire them, it’s just that they didn’t want to be sued if they killed the fishermen.  And there is nothing these fishermen would hesitate to do to save the bayous, canals and rivers where they and their families have made a living for generations – except this: Sign a contract with BP saying they will “hold harmless and indemnify … release, waive and forever discharge the BP Exploration and Production, Inc., its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, regular employees, and independent contractors … from all claims and damages” arising from helping to clean up the mess that BP has made.

No one wanted to waive the right to sue BP, but some fishermen, desperate for cash, signed the waiver anyway.  Keep in mind, the debris removal of 9/11 and the respiratory problems those who “pitched in to help” had afterwards; and how the government tried to disown the side effects of the dust.  Totally irresponsible.  Well, BP wanted to cover themselves—on the front end!

Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post reported fisherman Louie Barthelemy  saying, “I shouldn’t have signed it,” after leaving a three-hour training course for commercial fishermen interested in a BP cleanup job. Barthelemy was one of hundreds of fishermen who showed up at Boothville Elementary School on Saturday morning for the BP-sponsored class.  You can bet, Louie ain’t no college graduate!

Sheriff’s deputies parked along the side of the road with their lights flashing to guide the stream of fishermen into the parking lot. Some who signed the contract did not speak English. Others admitted they could barely read or write but needed work and signed without knowing what the contract said.  It’s documented history that corporations devise ways to exploit poor and desperate people.  Times haven’t changed…

“I was 8 or 9 years old when I started on a shrimp boat. I quit school. I can barely read or write,” said Darrell Moreau, a shrimp boat captain. “Who’s going to pay my bills? I got bill collectors calling.”

Confusion reigned. About 200 fishermen, many still in their muddy white rubber fishing boots, discussed BP’s offer to lease their boats and hire crews to lay booms to retain the slick and prevent it from leaking to their precious bayous.  They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place—and BP knows it.  They’ll simply wait ‘em out.  Here’s where government comes in.  I just don’t see the knight in shining armor coming to the rescue—and making BP “do the right thing.”

The document they were asked to sign did not specify how much BP would pay, but some captains said they had been offered as much as $3,000 a day for their large boats and crews.  What poor person, robbed of their livelihood, wouldn’t jump on that?  To sign away their right to be part of a class-action lawsuit against BP is a hard thing to do—unless you can’t read!  Now here’s the part where the vultures swoop in: many fishermen already have been contacted by lawyers who want to represent them in lawsuits against BP.

That was the problem, Kinnaird said. BP never intended for them to relinquish their right to sue the company. That is not what the document said. The document was merely a standard safety waiver – not a work contract, Kinnaird said.  Yeah, right…like we’ve been lickin’ mushrooms…

“I am sitting her right now tearing them up and putting them in the trash,” Kinnaird said. More than 400 captains had signed documents allowing BP to lease their vessels. “It was just a standard waiver, something the lawyers like. But it just caused so many problems.”  If it weren’t for the press—someone watching this whole fiasco, they have ran it ‘til the wheels fell off.  We must stay vigilant and watch the pirates in this devilish system of capitalism we’re painted into.  Maybe there’s hope yet.

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