BP Labor Camps

by Scott Creighton 

UPDATE at the end of the article…  Leak is worse due to an “accident” and two clean-up workers are dead. 

Disaster capitalism is the way of the entire country right now.  Employers large and small are taking advantage of the dismal economic climate and they are padding their profit margins by rolling back pay rates and benefits for the average working man. It’s an all out assault on the standard of living of the blue-collar worker that I personally have seen growing in popularity over the past 24 years. Working Americans undermining other working Americans, literally stealing food right off their families tables, in order to achieve “just a little more” profit for themselves.  I’ve seen good men, men who refused to sell-out their workforce, have to shut down their businesses because the scourges who are competing with them can underbid them by utilizing their ‘off the books”/less than minimum wage workforce.  What has resulted is a kind of reverse natural selection where only the corrupt and morally weak survive and thrive in this new neoliberal Miracle of America.   

I thought I had seen it all… til this.   

BP is hiring contractors to come in and run the clean-up operations. BP of course is a British company but by and large, the sub-contractors in charge of all the clean-up workers are American companies. And you would be surprised what Americans will do to other Americans when the almighty dollar is involved. 

  

The workers are desperate, coming from all over. Companies are filing their charters and rushing down to get a piece of the action. There is confusion and chaos all over the place and in that kind of environment, hidden from view of the MSM by mandate of law, you’re going to get all kinds of terrible behavior from these unseen companies toward their desperate employees.   

Modern Labor camps

BP is busy setting up what amounts to labor camps in the Gulf states. Trailer cities are being constructed to house and lock-in the clean-up workers. They will be bused from these camps to the job and back again, day in and day out. Private mercenary contractors are being contracted to “police” these camps. Fences are constructed to keep the workers from slipping out after a long day’s work. The company stores promise the bleed the workers of their paychecks (what little they actually get) and laundry facilities are being set up by other contractors so that they can charge whatever they like to do their laundry.   

Jailhouse mattresses for clean-up workers

These trailers will house 36 or so clean-up workers living stacked one on top of the other in the summer heat of the Gulf of Mexico… no alcohol will be allowed into BP City. I am sure it won’t be long before Wal-Mart and Burger King work out some way to put a temporary facility in the middle of this location.   

The men and women who come to the Gulf looking for work have no idea what they are in for. They are being promised work at a fair rate of pay but these stories, stories about these living conditions just aren’t making it to the headlines of the MSM all across the country. CNN did a story about this “city” being built but they made it seem like it was not that bad; like being in the military or something.   

BP Flotel

They also set up what were called “flotels“… barges with metal shipping containers stacked on top of each other housing 20 or so workers per container. They are still being used now. Not much is known about these as the company and the complicit Obama administration haven’t allowed any media coverage of them. But word slips out and the picture is actually of one of these flotels.  Can you imagine what is going to be like in the middle of the summer? How soon til their little AC unit goes out?   

These are work camps, nothing more. They are disaster capitalism in its purist and most savage form. Everyone makes money… the contractors making these things, the contractors running them, the contractors putting the clean-up workers in them, and the “policing” mercenary contractors hired to keep the workers in line and subdued.   

Everyone makes money… everyone but the actual workers that is.   

For the past two pay periods, Louisiana-based Ashland Services LLC, the labor contractor he works for, has given workers the same story. “Every pay period, they blame the late payments on the payroll company. But of course they don’t tell us the name of the company; that’s because it’s a lie; payroll companies don’t make those types of mistakes.”   

“Last week there was almost a riot,” he added. “They have 600 people to pay and they only had 28 checks,” he said. “They had to call in the buses early and get everyone back to the tent city where we’re staying before it got out of control. They told everyone that checks would be waiting for them there but that was a lie too.”   

BP gives the companies that hire cleanup workers a lump sum for the job, based on how much they think it will cost, he said. “They just bank the cash and pay the workers late to get some extra off the top.”   

Some workers have been fired before the end of the pay period, without getting a single paycheck or having enough money to get home. When this happened to one worker, her fellow employees, not the contractor, took care of her. “We all pooled in enough money for her to buy bus tickets back,” said the worker.   

“It’s just chaos down here,” he said. “We’ve had people working for weeks, and all of a sudden they’re told they’re not even hired; Ashland says they have no record of them working and don’t have their work applications. People are told to re-file applications over and over. They find every possible way to scam you out of your pay.”   

“One girl I work with was told to re-file her application five times. This is a contracting company; how can you lose that many applications? How can you not take care of your people?” he said. “It’s not like it’s getting better, it’s getting worse.”  WSWS   

This system is being set up with the intention that it will be around for a very long time. Think about it… all these contractors being spoon fed big-time money are in charge of the actual clean-up… so what is their motivation to get this spill cleaned up as fast as they can? They have none. Their motivation is money and the money STOPS when the oil is cleaned up. At that point they are out of business so what is their motivation to actually clean up the Gulf?   

And what is the motivation for the Obama administration? This clean-up process takes people off the unemployment rolls right before a contentious mid-term election, it supports BUSINESS and generates profits for big construction companies and the people who own them. In fact, what has happened to all that inertia to stop the leak which is now reported to be pumping 100,000 barrel a day into the Gulf of Mexico? Where did all that go after Obama’s big speech?    

The Gulf is hemorrhaging, the wildlife is dying, the lawyers are jockeying for position at the handouts table, and NOTHING is being done to stop this nightmare.  13 different countries offered to send help within the first 3 weeks and ALL OF THEM were refused flat-out.  Why?   

Because THIS is what they wanted; never let a good crisis go to waste.   

Barack Obama’s administration actively sacrificed the welfare of the Gulf of Mexico in order to allow a crisis to grow so that it could be EXPLOITED by various business interests. And that says nothing of how his administration is attempting to USE this situation to further his GLOBAL WARMING (opps… I’m sorry… what are we calling it now that we all admit the “warming” stopped in 2001? Oh that’s right… CLIMATE CHANGE… got it) and carbon tax/carbon credit derivatives exchange market agenda.   

“Obama’s Katrina”?  You gotta be shitting me.    

Katrina was an unavoidable natural disaster that lasted hours and then the Bush administration allowed the SUFFERING to continue in order to drive up profits for certain companies. Yes, the levies should have been fixed years before, but once that storm developed, it was a little too late to do anything about it. Yes, they should have evacuated the poor from the 9th ward, but we all know how much Bush just LOVES the poor.   

But the Deepwater Horizon spill is a MAN MADE event that didn’t have to take place that is STILL POURING MORE OIL INTO THE GULF and devastating the ecosystem as we speak while NOTHING is being done except generating profits for various slimy characters while exposing thousands of workers to dangerous conditions and treating them like slaves on a plantation. In fact, it is pouring MORE oil into the Gulf now than it was when it first happened.   

The long and short of it is that these workers, desperate to find ANY work in this economic crisis created by the bankers and the government ON PURPOSE, are being forced to slave away in modern-day labor camps and it is going to get worse before it gets any better. The public attention span is going to fade out as the election draws nearer or some other American Idol season starts up… and when that happens, when the scant attention these poor desperate people are receiving now dwindles, the corporations and the labor contractors will step-up their abuse in the quiet of the “pro-business” atmosphere created by the neoliberal Washington Consensus.   

And god help us when the other corporations see how easy it is to get away with behavior like this.  It’s like when Bush got away with all his and Cheney’s crimes they committed during their administration. Now Obama and his staff fully expect to push the envelope even further and still get away with it as well.  Corruption, exploitation, and malfeasance is a degenerative condition; there is no reason to expect it to get better if there is no accountability for what has happened in the past.  

This is the Miracle of America in our new Neoliberal Age, taking shape right before our eyes… and we are doing nothing to stop it. 

UPDATE- The latest containment effort just made the situation worse.  A robotic sub just bumped into a vent and ruptured it causing an even greater flow rate spilling out into the Gulf.  BP is “investigating” what happened. 

One clean-up worker has been shot to death with no details as of yet reported and the other death is also a mystery right now. 

BP has pulled the containment cap off the drill site in the Gulf, and now oil is flowing at a faster rate than before.  Raw Story

… The deaths reported Wednesday were not tied to the containment operation. The Coast Guard said the workers had been involved in cleanup operations did that their deaths did not appear to be work related. 

One death was a boat captain who died of a gunshot wound, a Coast Guard spokesman said. Further details were not immediately available. MSNBC 

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18 Responses

  1. They are turning America into Haiti……
    why does a person have to live there? Can’t local people get the work and then go home after work?
    Would seem like enough locals could fill the job numbers……
    where are the lawyers who could sue for unpaid wages? And charge BP for lawyer fees.
    This situation is unforgivable…
    BTW, outstanding write up , Scott.

  2. Well, Reverend Casy and them built a movement around this same kind of shit in their day. Songs were sung, things got done–by the people, for the people.

    Maybe the same will happen there, and now. Something better, and soon.

    r ap

  3. Karl Rove Imterrupted by a Trutther:

    I saw this clip at swamson’s site:

  4. They came first for the poor, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t poor.

    Then they came for the jobs, the houses, retirement funds, health care, etc. Then I was poor.

  5. actually… the CHANGE guy ain’t doing much… the CODE PINK lady who war trying to arrest him with the handcuffs who got dragged out of the meeting… now SHE was doing something.

  6. (and after writing all of this and doing the research to put this up for the readers here, it would be nice if you ONCE tried to stay on topic lennon… its polite to at least ATTEMPT to interact on the subject at hand before posting up videos about some other issue. I know it is important to you but you could at least go through the motions…)

  7. how in the world will anyone find out what really happened to those two murdered men?
    America needs her old fashioned on-the-spot reporters and investigative journalists…. wonder if sat view picked up on anythng?
    All those workers are now scared to leave….

  8. Neatly said, Pooches–and truly. That’s the way they’re working it.

    r

  9. You ar acting kind of rude wyllo you are telling me FOR ONCE be on topic.?

    I guess today is not your day

    Good bye.

  10. @Jan – those poor folk cannot afford a lawyer and a no-win, no-fee lawyer is unlikely to see much profit from this so I’m thinking that the poor folk are fucked!

    @jlennon08 – Good bye. Can’t say as I’ll miss you.

    @willy – thanks for posting this info. It seems that disaster capitalism is alive and well and being introduced to Americans by the barrelful (no pun intended!) The poor bastards are probably blaming everybody except the one’s who are actually to blame for the crisis and the one’s who’ve chosen to profit from it.

    It’s now a survival situation until a real leader can get them or others organised to revolt against the circumstances.

  11. I haven’t been able to figure out if the media and Congressional trashing of BP is a real effort to eliminate non-American competition or just a public tongue-lashing to appear sympathetic to public concern. The Bank and finance CEO’s recieved similiar media and Congressional indignation and condemnation in the “most serious terms” and yet they are undiminished in their continued criminality. I guess the question is answered by lack of media attention to the conditions and events in Willy’s article. They are still being protected from exposure of their further crimes. How can the deaths of 2 workers not be front page news when the damn World Cup seems to be all important?

  12. Hey Shawn, they don’t have enough front page space left after they put up articles everyday about Tiger Woods, shoes for the summer, make up, how to stay young, and on and on about dumb stuff.

  13. All while BP CEO takes time off to go sailing….

  14. You are right, John Jasper, poor people are “f”……
    (couldn’t bring myself to spell out that word… now ain’t that silly…..)

  15. My only complaint with your article is when you write, “Katrina was an unavoidable natural disaster,” which it most certainly was not. Katrina was a category 3 hurricane, an average one, which both the Mississippi Gulf coast and New Orleans have weathered before.

    You don’t line the Mississippi coast prior to a hurricane with barges expecting they won’t flatten everything in their path when the water surges. You don’t leave barges in the Mississippi River/Gulf Outlet before a hurricane expecting them to not smash through the levy protecting New Orleans’ 9th Ward. You don’t build substandard levies expecting them to protect N.O. forever.

    Katrina was as much a man-made disaster as the BP oil “spill,” and the federal government’s response to Katrina was, as it is with the Gulf disaster, just as intentionally negligent and criminal.

  16. I have to admit I didn’t know about the barges, though I wonder what standard proceedure is when a Cat 3 hurricane is coming into the Gulf. Don’t they anchor them close to shore but not too close and then clear the crew.

    Yes, I think I mentioned the poor conditions of the levi system in and around the lower 9th ward. It’s my understanding that they deliberately allowed them to fall into such bad shape because they were hoping one day for a hurricane that would wipe all those pesky poor people off the property the hotel chains and the casinos have wanted for so long.

    they could also have easily used all those school buses to more those people out prior to the hurricane making landfall, but they didn’t.

    They certainly made it as bad as they could, but ultimately, they couldn’t create a hurricane.

    However, the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon was completely man-made and they are certainly letting it become as bad as they possibly can.

    that’s what I meant.

  17. Services up for bid include catering, temporary fencing and barricades, laundry and medical services, power generation, refuse collection, and other services required for temporary “emergency environment” camps located in five regions of the United States.

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