In December 2012, a federal jury ordered Universal Placement International of Los Angeles to pay U.S.$ 4.5 million to 350 Filipino teachers exploited in the process of their recruitment to positions in Louisiana public schools. The case, filed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in cooperation with partners, established important legal precedent as the teachers were the first plaintiff class ever to be certified under the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  In allowing the class action suit to proceed to trial, the judge also ruled that “serious harm” is not limited to physical coercion, but also includes financial coercion.

AFT's advocacy on behalf of the exploited Filipino teachers began with a state-level complaint filed by the AFT and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers against the private recruiter, a twice convicted felon, who cheated the teachers out of thousands of dollars and controlled the immigration process to ensure payment. In 2010, the Louisiana State Workforce Commission ruled in the teachers' favor, ordering the recruitment agency to refund $1.8 million in fees found to have been collected illegally. 

“It is an outrage that these abuses are occurring in the United States,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten. “The AFT is adamant that all teachers working in our school system must be fairly treated, no matter what country they are from.”

Importantly, the AFT first learned of the abuses occurring in Louisiana through contact with the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) in the Philippines.  The scale of intimidation of these teachers was so great that they did not know who to trust in the U.S., and had turned instead to their connections with Partido ng Manggagawa, the Philippine Labor Party, to seek help.  Without an established relationship, PSLINK may have been loath to share confidential personal information regarding Filipino migrants with an American union.  However, having built trust over years of joint activity, PSLINK and AFT were well positioned to combine forces as advocates for the teachers in Louisiana and in efforts to ensure that their exploitative recruiter was brought to justice.  In addition to legal work on the U.S. side, PSLINK assisted in efforts to ensure that the recruiter working in the Philippines was suspended from practice and was required to make financial restitutions to teachers as well.

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AFT Report Finds Abuses of Teachers Recruited from Overseas: Calls for Regulation of Recruitment Industry

See, John. Press release. September 14, 2009.