Always Looking Out

…for Number 1.

To Daryl Johnson of Orange, Tex., work as a rigger on pipe-laying barges seemed like a pretty sure bet. The pay was good — $18.50 an hour — and with oil exploration booming, Johnson felt secure with Houston-based Horizon Offshore Contractors, which had hired him in 1999. But Johnson, speaking through his attorney, says he got concerned when managers told him there were no openings for friends whom he referred for jobs, even while Horizon continued to hire Mexican and Malaysian nationals. Then, in 2007, Johnson lost his job. “They gave me no explanation,” says Johnson.
However, in Johnson’s mind and in those of other oil workers in the Gulf, the connection to the cheaper foreign workers is clear. His allegations are part of a lawsuit moving forward in federal court in Texas, which claims that a group of U.S. energy services companies operating in U.S. waters on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico are using workers recruited from Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, and other countries to displace U.S. workers, at less than half of the pay. According to the lawsuit, the staffing is illegal because non-U.S. workers are working without proper visas aboard foreign-flagged vessels that are in fact controlled by American companies.

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