Undocumented Workers Exploited in Michigan Oil Clean Up

The Michigan Messenger reports a Texas company had been busing in undocumented workers to work 14 hour days for $800 a week.

By Jamilah King Aug 31, 2010

Hallmark Industrial, the company commissioned by Garner Environmental Services to clean up the Calhoun county oil spill in Michigan, has been fired*. The dismissal comes just a day after the Michigan Messenger published a report that Texas-based Hallmark had been busing in undocumented workers to work 12 to 14 hour days for only $800 a week. Workers also reported not having adequate restroom facilities, along with other undisclosed safety concerns and violations.

Garner Environmental Services was in turn contracted by Enbridge Energy Partners, the company originally responsible for the spill that happened along the Kalamazoo River after a pipe burst in late July. Enbridge claims to have made an "independent decision" to end Hallmark’s contract with the oil spill clean up, but spokespeople for Enbridge did admit that The Messenger’s investigation did play a role.

"It’s fair to say — and I think it’s fair for people to make the leap — that this was because of allegations related to their business practices," spokesperson Terri Larson said Tuesday morning.

Garner appears to still be in charge of subcontracting companies to clean up the spill, and has reportedly banned all contractors from talking to the media or else face immediate termination.

While Hallmark employees have reportedly boarded buses and are quickly headed back to Texas, some workers were left behind in Michigan with no immediate hopes of being re-hired by another company or even receiving the pay that’s due to them.

* A previous post related to this story incorrectly reported that BP subcontracted the clean-up firm in question. BP is not involved in the case. Enbridge Energy Partners is the company responsible for the spill.