BLOOD ON BROWN WATER CHAPTER SIX
The Black List
Editors Note 9/19/2017 This is an excerpt from the National Mariners Associations book "BLOOD ON BROWN WATER" an expose written prior to a 2012 attempt to push a maritime safety legislation package for the Jones Act fleets through Congress. The "Black List was just one of the reforms sought. Despite publication of the book, letters to the leading Congressmen, and a six month long on scene lobbying effort in Washington, not one of the reforms asked for even made it to proposed bill status. Now in 2017, nothing has changed except the price of oil has tumbled reducing the the employment of offshore oil industry support vessels a major Jones Act employer. Seamen are still needlessly endangered and abused in the Jones Act fleets to varying levels but fear of job loss has suspended all efforts at improving employment conditions and safety.
When a crewmember is seriously injured in service to his vessel in this industry, he has little choice but to sue his employer since seamen have none of the workers compensation benefits of land-side employees. Once he does, even if he wins a modest settlement, his career is over. On Sept. 1, 2003 our Association wrote the following letter to Representative Billy Tauzin (R-La), then Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as to each member of the Committee presenting our views on the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
We followed up our correspondence with a second letter to the Chairman Tauzin on Dec. 17, 2003 without receiving any response and, consequently, have little to show for our efforts. These practices continue to adversely affect our mariners. Industry Black Listing Practices and the Fair Credit reporting Act (FCRA).
Our Letter to Former U.S. Representative Tauzin
“I am writing to you as a member of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection to earnestly ask you to amend a provision in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). I am writing on behalf of the Gulf Coast Mariners Association (1), an independent Association representing the interests and concerns of approximately [126,000 limited-tonnage] merchant mariners who serve on the nation’s tugs, towboats,small passenger vessels and offshore supply vessels." [(1)GCMA became NMA on Jan. 1, 2008]
“Employment purposes. 15 USC §1681b indicates that one of the permissible purposes of a consumer report is for “employment purposes.” The Federal Trade Commission further defines these “permissible purposes” relating to employment to include reports used for evaluating a consumer “for employment, promotion, reassignment or retention as an employee.” Our request concerns abuse of this provision in a significant, non-unionized portion of the maritime industry for employment purposes.
“We believe that a good employee will try to maintain a good work record. The fact that such a record really exists and may follow him in the workplace provides a positive and sobering influence upon his or her conduct and stability. “Unfortunately, there is one feature that stands out and detracts from the value of this type of "consumer report.” That point deals with the answer to the question, “Would you rehire this employee?” or, restated, “Is this former employee eligible for rehire by your company?”
“We receive widespread reports from our mariners that this single point is used to evaluate and subsequently to “blacklist” many of our mariners. It is a “quick and dirty” test of suitability for employment. Our complaint lies with the law and not with the Consumer Reporting Agency that only appears to be doing what the law and/or the Federal Trade Commission allow. We make the following arguments for change. [Enclosure #1] is a Work Report with the “would rehire” blank circled. An employer may elect a “Yes”, “No” or simply to make no comment.
● “Would not rehire” is not based upon any uniform set of employment guidelines. It is a subjective opinion of some person working for a former employer who is under no obligation to reveal his/her identity or even position within the company. It could represent the opinion of a President, a Personnel Director, or even a clerk-typist with access to the company’s computer. In the case covered above the employee was never “fired” or even given a “pink slip.”
● A mariner does not know which person “blacklisted” him or when it was done. However, “would not rehire” now can appear on a computer screen at a job seeker’s next job interview. Or, it may appear as part of the “re-investigation” the present law allows. In this case, the job applicant found out about it three years later –much of that time spent unemployed but constantly seeking work. Although he made written inquiry to both his former employer and to the Credit Reporting Agency, he was never told why his former employer would not rehire him. The information the mariner chose to add to his consumer report to counteract the “blacklisting” was nothing more than a shot in the dark since he had no access to solid facts he could refute. Even worse, his statement now stands out like a sore thumb on his work report.
● Most job applications require job seekers to list their previous employers. In the transportation industry, 49 CFR §40.25 even requires prospective employers to verify a job seeker’s drug records for the past two years. If the prospective employer made such a call he would have a greater opportunity to speak with a responsible person in authority and ask legally permissible questions about the job seeker. A “would not rehire” computer entry short circuits the entire process and is manifestly unfair to job seeker.
● Accepting “would not rehire” notations without identifying them by name coupled with the limitation of liability in 15 U.S. Code §1681h make it very extremely difficult for an injured employee to prove in court that he wasdisqualified from employment by “...false information furnished with malice or willful intent to injure such (a) consumer” if this is the case. Our experience shows that most mariners, especially those who are unemployed, do not have the means, the ability, and the knowledge to deal with the administrative procedures of the Credit Reporting Agencies – even when those agencies scrupulously follow the law.
“It is for these reasons and in the interest of fairness to our mariners that I ask you on behalf of our Association to amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to exclude the solicitation of the information by Credit Reporting Agencies that allows notations such as “would not rehire” or “not eligible for rehire” to appear on a work report furnished by such an agency.”
s/ Secretary, National Mariners Association.
Our Association never received the courtesy of a reply from Congressman Tauzin or from any member of his committee. Former Congressman Tauzin is now a paid lobbyist for a pharmaceutical trade association in Washington. Sadly, stonewalling this issue only showed that he was never an advocate for our mariners, only for
A Mariner is at the Mercy of a Credit Reporting Agency
[Source: NMA Mariner #181. Name redacted for privacy. Letter to Reporting Agency “Pretiem.” Emphasis is ours!]
ATTN: Ms. Mary E. King, Consumer RelationsPRETIEM, 195 Clarksville Rd.Princeton Junction, NJ 08550
Dear Ms. King,I wish to contest the entry of “would not rehire” ascribed to my former employer, TORCH, Inc. According to your records, I last worked for TORCH, inc. on Feb. 12, 1999. I was never told by any representative of TORCH, Inc. that I would not be rehired. To the best of my knowledge and belief, I left their employ in good standing.I started working as second Captain on a 120-foot utility boat M/V Fox under Capt. Bill Woodard. Later I was transferred to a larger boat the M/V Midnight Dancer for further training in four-point anchoring work as I had some previous experience working with SubSea International. I spent four days on board the M/VMidnight Dancer. I never received any training and was sent home.
I worked with TORCH, Inc. into the winter of 1998-99 until the work shut down offshore. When I went home it was with the understanding that they would call me when work picked up. They never recalled me. I was simply left at home waiting for a call that never came. After a reasonable period of time I called my immediate supervisor, Ed. Ed asked, “Nobody called you from the office?” Ed then paged the office and came back on the line and said: “Look, we don’t need you any more.” I asked, “what’s the problem?” He said, “Well, we just don’t need you any more.” I can accept the fact that they no longer need my services; however, I believe I deserve an explanation of WHY they filed a “would not rehire” with PRETIEM that will affect my employment with other companies and, in fact, with just about every maritime company I try to get a job with. This is a sneaky, underhanded thing to do.
If TORCH did not like my professional services for any reason, they do not have to rehire me! I really do not have a clue and, in the absence of one, I am left to assume it may well be a matter of racial discrimination. But, without a good reason, they have no right to ruin my career. Unless I obtain a reasonable answer, I will report the matter tothe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). I always try to get along with my employers and never did anything that would have brought about a reason for them to refuse to hire me in the future. I just want the courtesy of a reasonable explanation.The fact that this “would not rehire” notation is on my record damages my chances for employment with other companies. In looking for employment, when potential employers see this entry on my employment record, they tend to jump to conclusions that I am not a good employee rather than to take the time to check with other employers I have worked for. I have all sorts of family obligations I need to fulfill with a paycheck from an industry I have worked in all my life.
I respectfully request that your Agency either provide me with a complete explanation of the background of the “would not rehire” entry in your records from TORCH, Inc. or totally expunge the record from my files. Please furnish me with a copy of my adjusted records.Very Truly Yours,[s/Mariner #181]
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