Sign These Waivers, Then You Can See Your Family
"From the beginning, our focus has been on the crewmembers and their families, working with all parties in the response efforts and conducting a Transocean investigation into the incident. At this time, it would be inappropriate to comment on litigation." - Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded and sank, to NPR.
In Arizona, brown people are forced to show papers. In Louisiana, rig workers are forced to sign them.
However trusting of your fellow man you may usually be and however many protections and personal rights corporations have co-opted for themselves with the respective help of Congress and the Supreme Court, you need to understand one thing: Never trust a corporation.
Consider this story from National Public Radio that relays a tale told by some of the workers who'd survived the disaster, of bodies burning and others dismembered. Likened to "a war zone," the scenario was nightmarish enough as these men had to scramble to get aboard life boats and to be rescued at sea.
Once they reached land, they were then surrounded by corporate security personnel, whisked through the back door of a hotel and were forbidden from seeing or even telephoning family members to assure them they were safe. In the meantime, during their forced isolation that sounds more like kidnapping and misprisonment than safety protocols, the survivors were then pressured to sign waivers. Among the money shots in the form letters were these two paragraphs at the end:
"I was not a witness to the incident requiring the evacuation and have no first hand or personal knowledge regarding the incident."
The second says: "I was not injured as a result of the incident or evacuation."
The ones that felt pressured to sign are now having those used against them as they've filed civil lawsuits and Transocean's attorneys are now waving these form letters in their lawyer's face as if it's some magical cloak of invulnerability.
Before the 11 burned and dismembered bodies were even recovered, Transocean and BP were terrified the survivors would talk to the press then get in touch with lawyers, who were also not allowed to be present during their isolation. It reads suspiciously like the Katrina survivors who were whisked out of state and forced to live in formaldehyde-smelling FEMA trailers for well over a year in FEMA-owned internment camps.
Sure, they deserve the rights of individuals because this is what corporations do: They act in the interests of self-preservation in much the same way that individual people do when trapped in a disaster such as an oil rig exploding or a levee buckling during a massive flood.
Meanwhile, we can take consolation from the fact that, after ducking fines, safety regulations and personal accountability for the deaths of miners, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship last year saw his personal income skyrocket to over $27 million in compensation. This comes a week after it was learned that BP's net profits jumped 135% in their first quarter this year. The rich get richer and the poor don't just get poorer, they get dead.
29 Massey miners were killed barely more than two weeks before BP's DeepWater Horizon oil rig exploded, caught fire and sank, killing 11 workers.
And now, unless a federal court directly challenges the legality of these waivers that were obviously obtained under duress, coercion and social isolation, it looks as if Transocean and BP will walk away unscathed save for bad press from bloggers and a few media outlets. The very fact that the waiver forces them to falsely admit they were not a witness to the rig's explosion even though they were on it when it blew should alone have the waivers thrown out.
But stranger things have happened in federal court, such as the Supreme Court allowing corporations like BP to essentially buy their way into elections unimpeded.