Via John Cole... After the oil rig explosion in the Gulf, Transocean appears to have engaged in a deliberate scheme of isolation, sleep deprivation, and intimidation in order to extort signatures out of the workers. After being pulled out of the sea after the explosion, the workers were held on the ships offshore for 36-40 hours, denied access to phones or radios in order to call loved ones, drug tested, deprived of sleep, and then told to sign on the dotted line "or else". From the Guardian UK:
By Davis's estimate, it took 12-15 minutes to get from the rig to the work boat, but it would take another 36-40 hours before they were to return to shore â€“ even though there were dozens of boats in the area and Coast Guard helicopters airlifting the most severely injured to hospital.
Some of the men were openly furious, while others, like Davis, were just numb. He says they were denied access to the onboard satellite phone or radio to call their families.
When the ship finally did move, it did not head for shore directly, stopping at two more rigs to collect and drop off engineers and coast guard crew before arriving at Port Fourchon, Louisiana.
The company was ready for the men then, with portable toilets lined up at the dock for drug tests. The men were loaded on to buses, given a change of clothing and boxes of sandwiches, and taken to a hotel in Kenner, Louisiana, where finally they were reunited with their families.
Lawyers say the isolation was deliberate and that Transocean was trying to wear the men down so they would sign statements denying that they had been hurt or that they had witnessed the explosion that destroyed the rig.
"These men are told they have to sign these statements or they can't go home," said Buzbee. "I think it's pretty callous, but I'm not surprised by it."
Davis had been awake nonstop for about 50 hours by that point. He signed. Buzbee says most of the men did.
This statement seems to corroborate a story told previously by Christopher Choy, another Deepwater Horizon rig worker:
Choy, a young roustabout on the rig, was handed a form to fill out, asking what he'd seen. "They came on there, and they gathered everybody in the galley on the boat and handed out ... papers and stuff saying, '[These are] statements. You need to sign these. Nobody's getting off here until we get one from everybody.' "
But when Choy read the Coast Guard form, he didn't like what he saw. "At the bottom, it said something about, like, you know, this can be used as evidence in court and all that. I told them, I'm not signing it," Choy says. "Most of the people signed it and filled them out. I just didn't feel comfortable doing it." Choy shared his story at length with NPR and the PBS program NewsHour, in one of the most extensive interviews from a survivor of the April 20 rig blast.
The Coast Guard acknowledges it kept the men on the water in part so its investigators could get statements. But Choy says he thought the man who gave him the form said he was a lawyer with BP, the oil company. BP says it had no investigators or lawyers there.
It would be reasonable that the Coast Guard might want to interview the workers and get statements about the explosion and what was going on. Heck, someone from the government needs to be investigating at even this early point! But this doesn't quite sound like an investigation. This sounds like a corporate ass-covering maneuver with the Coast Guard looking on and providing a convenient excuse for the suits to hold the workers there and browbeat them into silence and indemnity. Then they were all drug tested, with those obvious implications (if you piss dirty, then obviously this was all your fault), and denied the ability to contact their families? Then, before they were allowed to go home, they had to go in front of Transocean lawyers yet again and have signatures demanded of them? Again from NPR:
But before they could go home, there was one more form and one more attempt to get the survivors to give information. At the hotel, there were representatives for Transocean who asked Choy to initial a line that said: I was not injured as a result of the incident or evacuation.
Choy had seen men with open wounds and burning flesh. He knew 11 of his friends were dead. He felt he was among the lucky ones.
Exhausted and just wanting to get home with Monica, he signed.
This is not only obscene, but it is criminal! Anyone involved, the actual lawyers or any other employees at Transocean (or BP or any other involved corporation) should be investigated and charged with Unlawful Restraint at the very least (and perhaps Kidnapping or Criminal Abduction). If the executives of the company knew about it, and surely they did if this level of thing was happening, then they should be charged as well.
Even if it is only Criminal Restraint, the penalties of which are often fairly light (fines and no more than 6 months in jail), it would send a message that this sort of corporate ass-cover is not acceptable.
Heck, with all of the hints of criminality surrounding this tragedy, they should indict the entire corporations (Transocean and BP, from what it seems so far) as criminal enterprises and prosecute them under RICO (which has predicate acts of extortion and blackmail).