An investigation by a local newspaper prompted the firing of a controversial subcontractor working on the oil spill clean up in Calhoun county, Michigan.
Reporters from the Michigan Messenger found that Hallmark Industrial, a Texas company also involved in the BP oil spill clean up efforts on the Gulf Coast, had been busing hundreds of undocumented workers from Texas to Battle Creek and forcing them to work nearly 100 hours a week in unsafe conditions.
The newpaper was tipped off by a Hallmark worker who, like over 20 others on the job site, asked not be identified because he was an undocumented laborer.
The workers reported that they were expected to work 12 to 14 hour shifts, seven days a week, in what photographs confirmed to be unsafe working conditions–all for $800 a week, cash.
Photos taken by the reporters show undocumented workers covered in oil and mud, while being provided with food and water. In one photo, a worker covered in oil is seen sitting on the white cooler from which workers get their water.
“In addition, workers told Michigan Messenger that they are forced to use the bathroom in the wooded areas they are cleaning up. Portable toilets are not placed on the islands, and supervisors refuse to ferry workers to a worker rallying point where they have access to toilet facilities.”
The newspaper submitted the photographs showing OSHA violations to the EPA, which is the government agency that oversees all oil spill clean-up responses.
An EPA spokesperson responded to say that Enbridge Energy, the company who owns the broken pipeline which caused the spill, had been instructed to investigate the alleged violations.
Thankfully, residents of Calhoun county won’t have to wait months for an oversight committee to decide whether there’s reason to investigate. Garner Environmental Services Inc., the contractor responsible for hiring Hallmark, “made an independent decision” to fire the company 24 hours after the story went public.
As Hallmark officials quietly packed up and headed back to Texas, the workers they bussed in were left in Battle Creek with no guarantee that they would receive the pay due them for their work on the Kalamazoo River before the contract abruptly ended.
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