May 2nd, 2010
Brandon Kruse/The Palm Beach Post
The Palm Beach Post
VENICE, La. – David Kinnaird, BP’s liaison to Plaquemines Parish, spent Saturday night ripping up the contracts that hundreds of local commercial fishermen had signed to work for BP cleaning up the slick that could wipe out the local seafood industry.
It’s not that BP didn’t want to hire them. And there is nothing these fishermen would hesitate to do to save the bayous, canals and rivers where they and their families have made a living for generations – except this: Sign a contract with BP saying they will “hold harmless and indemnify … release, waive and forever discharge the BP Exploration and Production, Inc., its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, regular employees, and independent contractors … from all claims and damages” arising from helping to clean up the mess that BP has made.
No one wanted to waive the right to sue BP, but some fishermen, desperate for cash, signed the waiver anyway.
“I shouldn’t have signed it,” Louie Barthelemy said after leaving a three-hour training course for commercial fishermen interested in a BP cleanup job. Barthelemy was one of hundreds of fishermen who showed up at Boothville Elementary School on Saturday morning for the BP-sponsored class.
Sheriff’s deputies parked along the side of the road with their lights flashing to guide the stream of fishermen into the parking lot. Some who signed the contract did not speak English. Others admitted they could barely read or write but needed work and signed without knowing what the contract said.
“I was 8 or 9 years old when I started on a shrimp boat. I quit school. I can barely read or write,” said Darrell Moreau, a shrimp boat captain. “Who’s going to pay my bills? I got bill collectors calling.”
Confusion reigned. About 200 fishermen, many still in their muddy white rubber fishing boots, discussed BP’s offer to lease their boats and hire crews to lay booms to retain the slick and prevent it from leaking to their precious bayous.
The document they were asked to sign did not specify how much BP would pay, but some captains said they had been offered as much as $3,000 a day for their large boats and crews.
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