As you may know, last July as we travelled with the delegation to
Yosemite we met a group of 9 South Africans working as bus staff in the Curry
Village Resturant. To brief you on the details .......
They are a few of many young South Africans aged 19 -24 who become
enticed by intense staged advertising luring them "to become rich in America".
The promise is a free passage, a work visa, and large salaries. They sign
on for 6months or a 1 year contract. They are not given any details about the
area they will be sent to, just a name. In this case, Yosemite. They are
essentially modern slave labor. Youth stolen from another country,
while they should be persuing an education or supporting the South African
economy. However, it appears that SEIU (labor union) has a hand in
setting up the "store front" in South Africa for recruitment.They do make a
choice to come, but they do not have a clear understanding, they only
recognize the possibility of living like people they see on the American TV
Once recruited and brought here, they begin to work. Their work
schedule are such that they never have two days off together. They have no voice
in their work hours. They work split shifts 7am-11:30am and 5pm-9pm. They are
housed in the housekeeping section of Curry village. They have to cook for
themselves. All their supplies are only available from the Curry
Village grocery store, owned by the same company that contracts the food
industry to National Parks.
They pay, out of their minimum wage salary, taxes, UNION DUES, and a
deduction for the cost of their ticket. So much for "Free passage!!".
They are told they do not have to stay the full 6 month contract, however
that will forfeiet their ticket home. SO, IF they are able to buy a ticket
to go home they are free to go. I have contacted folks in South Africa who
are looking into this scheme.
Now winter is approaching. They had no idea until I informed them of
how cold it is going to become in the next several weeks. These young
people come from near where I grew up...the SUB TROPICS!!! I would like to
help them aquire appropriate clothes for the winter conditions they will
experience between now and December when they are due to go home.
THIS IS WHAT IS NEEDED:
SHOES: (closed, appropriate to walk in the wet weather or snow)
1 PAIR LADIES SIZE 10
4 PAIRS LADIES SIZE 8
2 PAIRS LADIES SIZE 6
1 PAIR MEN SIZE 9
2PAIRS MEN SIZE 8
7 MEDIUM SIZE ...2 of these are men
1 LARGE SIZE
WARM WOOLY HATS ..10
GLOVES..............1 LARGE, 7MEDIUM, 2 SMALL OR ONE SIZE FITS ALL
10 OF COURSE
iF YOU HAVE ANY WARM SWEATERS IN THESE SIZES.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCARD WINTER PJ'S
IF YOU HAVE AnY THICK SOCKS.
I am hoping to take these to them by Saturday, October 7th. If you
would be so kind as to check your closets for extras or things your family has
grown out of...Then, e-mail me.Ask friends/neighbors. I plan to do a drive
around pick-up on Friday. You can also drop them off at the office at Peace, I
will make a stop there.
I appreciate you kind compassion. They group in Yosemite are deeply
touched that we care about them. If anyone wants to join me for a quick day
trip to the mountains let me know.
Rich and Judy: The Yosemite Park and Curry Company severed their
relationship with the park about 5 years ago. The Delaware North
Companies Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., a division of Delaware North
Companies has the concessions at the park now. Once they took over many things
changed (for the worse in my opinion!) and many of the long time
employees left. Delaware North now has the concessions at a large number of
parks and points of interest and has quietly been raising the prices to the point
that now a tent cabin in Curry Village costs about $90 a night! Add that
insult to the fact that they're getting these kids as indentured servants and
it's enough to wonder what the Sam Hill is going on in our National Parks!
I just thought you'd like to know who was actually running the joint
before letters were written. My wife and I were involved with the Yosemite
Fund before, during and after the transition and are not surprised. Check
out their website, this is a BIG company.
Visit to Yosemite
October 7, 2006
margaret northall email@example.com
As many of you have read about how I met two South African women last
uly working in Yosemite at the Curry Village restaurant, I now continue
with this story. It turns out that there are approximately 15 South Africans
and others from Jamaica and other countries staffing the "housekeeping and
restaurant support" functions of the Yosemite Valley. They are employees
of the Delaware North Company (DNC). During the July meeting, the
women were on duty, at work, and could only give a few details. Since
then, via phone calls and a visit from a frequent visitor to Yosemite further
details have been gleaned.
Today, a friend and I visited them with a car load of warm clothes, as a gift
of compassion from our community, since they are unprepared for the snow
season that is upon them. We spent 3 hours with them listening to their story.
They would like their story to known and to give a voice to their situation,
so that others do not fall into this trap or participate in the modern day slave
The current group of South Africans arrived here in May 2006. Others
followed in July. They all have a December 31st ending date of employment.
How they came:
In South Africa Recruitment Agency¹s operate under large conglomerates
of corporate employment agency groups. Some of these agencies being
subsidiaries of holding groups in the UK. . Some of the names of these are
TMR and Prestige International that are subsidiaries of large corporations.
They offer recruitment in many sectors of the work environment. Under
the Hotel and Tourism sector they recruit young adults. There is a heavily
funded newspaper advertising campaign in local papers. It promises work
abroad, good salaries, housing, all transport provided, uniforms, visas and
all necessary paperwork done for potential employees before they arrive.
Once accepted, they are shown a video of accommodation.(a modern
apartment), and a few snapshots of a number of resorts. They are told that
they will be working in areas of their expertise.
Amongst this group is a college graduate in sales and marketing, a young
woman with 9 years experience in the top hotel industry in South Africa.
These young adults apply in person or online. Once accepted, they pay a
They pay for their airfare ($2000), visa($500-600 depending which agency
they deal with) and "other necessary fees stipulated by the agency. They are
sold "Health Insurance" for $1000. that is invalid and not accepted in the USA.
The South Africans we spoke with say they spent between $4000-$6000 to
come here. Once they got onto their flight, they flew to many locations with
3 -4 stopovers before finally arriving in San Francisco. Once in San Francisco,
they were not met by anyone. They had to make their way to Yosemite on
their own. Some reported being lost in San Francisco for 2 days before they
found the Greyhound bus station. After buying a bus ticket for the next day,
they had to spend one more night in San Francisco. The next day they arrived
in Merced. They found out that they had missed the daily bus to Yosemite.
They had to spend a night in Merced, before finally arriving in Yosemite.
They have arrived with an H2B visa. Their I-94 entrance limits their stay to
6 months. If they wish to renew, they are put in touch with a "local branch of
the employment agency" where they can pay another $500.00 for a renewal.
(An unrealistic price)
Place of employment:
In this case, the employer is the Delaware North Company. (DNC PR at
Yosemite, Inc). (One of the numerous sites DNC operates National Parks
concessions). They are given a brief orientation and assigned work according
to their resume. Several women came with the understanding that they
would be working in "housekeeping" or the hotel front desk support jobs.
They were assigned a manager. Initially they earned $9 per hour. They receive
5 hours of training. There is an additional 3 hour "guest path training" (paid at
a rate of $8.36/hr) as well as a 1 hour instruction in alcohol training.(Why??)
Then two weeks later they were sent to another manager, who stated that they
were now part of that department. This demoted them to working as bussing staff
and dishwashers in the restaurants or "behind the scene" support staff in the deli
(read.. shelving and kitchen clean-up). With this their salaries also immediately
were switched to $7.48per hour.
When the employee questioned the change they are assured they are re-
assigned randomly and there is no recourse. SO they are doing jobs way
beneath their skills level.
They are promised a certain number of hours of work per week, but this
promise is constantly broken. They fill out paperwork for "availability"
and here the company plays favorites and has caused division amongst the
"foreign guest" workers. Their work hours are split shifts from 7am-11:30
and 5pm-9pm. They never have two days off together. Some work 5pm to 1am,
washing dishes. There is a $1.13 shift differential for this.
They are provided uniforms. However when I questioned the fact that they
were not being outfitted for the climate they came to, they said that DNC
only supplies jackets and warm clothes if you have an "outside" job. For
an inside job you get polo shirts and uniform pants. You can buy a fleece
sweatshirt for $60 from the company store. There is no provision for
protective clothing or boots/ shoes appropriate for snow conditions.
They have no representation despite the fact that they paid $50. SEIU union
initiation fee and have union dues subtracted from each paycheck. (Yosemite
Chapter of Local 535).
They have errors on their paychecks that they are not getting the adjustments
for even though they did follow procedure to fill out paperwork to request
They do not have access to a paper copy of their hours worked.
One manager did correct paycheck errors retroactively. Other managers
ignore the request.
It is legal, and an employer requirement, to deduct federal taxes, federal
medicare and social security as well as state taxes and unemployment. Of
course they will never see the benefit of these charges!!!!!!
Someone filled out a W-4 for them and randomly claimed 4 deductions.
They of course do not understand what this "paperwork" means.
They live in the Curry Village housekeeping tent cabins or in the Village
housekeeping cabins (8¹x10¹) shared with one person. They pay pre-tax rent
of $20 per week. The room has a small refrigerator and two beds. No closet,
just a rail. A small chest of drawers. Outside the door we noticed that all
the cabins except theirs had a "bear box" for food storage. The bathrooms
are outside, away from the cabin. The kitchen is separate, outside. They are
told "Don't worry too much about the bears, if you see one. If you do they
will not harm you" Consequently these South Africans are not storing food
in their rooms. Since they do not have enough time off to leave the park and
travel to the nearest town outside the park for supplies, they have to buy
groceries from the "company store",knowing full well the inflated prices.
They have an offer of a "meal plan" That costs $45. per week for a meal per
day at one of the food courts. They are definitely scraping by with food.
They asked if I had perhaps brought some meat, as it is unaffordable on
There is a Laundromat that they must pay for to do their laundry.
From the heart of four young folks we spoke to they said:
"I experience more anxiety the closer I get to starting my shift"
"I am homesick I feel trapped"
"I would not want my brother to come and experience what I have"
"You wouldn¹t want to hear the stories we could tell you. We
thought that America was a good place, a respectable place, but agh!
They don¹t like us and don't treat us well"
"I just want to go home and get out of here!"
"I could have kept the money I spent to get here, saved longer
and worked harder in South Africa. My family wants to build a
family home. Now I have spent all this money to come here and
I will not make more than I spent to come here."
"I don't know how we will get back to San Francisco in December"
"I just want our voice to be heard, so others here the story of
how we are being treated, how they lied to us at the employment
agency in South Africa. We want this to stop!!! We do not want
any more people to come here and experience what we are experiencing"
"I will never tell all the stories to my family"
"The Americans that live here (neighbors) seem to be very troubled"
"I came expecting to promote myself in my qualifications, and
now I am washing big pots" "I can't believe America is like this!"
"I came to experience America and earn money, but I did not expect
to be treated so bad. They just don't care about us. Nobody told us
about the weather. The chef at the deli said something, but I can't
imagine it would be colder than last night. I cried so much because I
was SO cold and I did not know what I was going to do. The Lord
must have sent you here today"
"Others have left and gone to Merced, Fresno and New York. Our
friends in Yellowstone are suffering too"
Where do we go from here:
o They just want their story exposed to the world, so that other do not
fall into this trap.
o The Delaware North Company has exploited their services. They
want this to STOP!!
o They want to bring attention to the mistreatment of guest workers.
In their case, they have paid to come and work here. A visa does not
cost $500. Check the INS website.
o Please forward this to anyone you know who would help expose
the truth about this situation.
o How about.. Oprah, Rep. George Miller, news reporters, anyone
opposing Richard Pombo (who approved contracts to commercialize
parks to meet budget needs,
as Chairman of the House Resources Committee)
o Tell your friends, community organizations you are associated with,
spread this story far and wide, and keep telling it.
o .If someone is amenable to offering them temporary employment
and housing until December, they are open to that.. Write a letter
of encouragement to them to let them know you care. Here are some
of the names: Sifiso Luthuli, Luntu Sdwedwe, Johanna S. Nwabisa
o The address: General Delivery, 90o1 Village Drive, Yosemite, CA 95389
I will be making another trip to see them soon.
margaret northall firstname.lastname@example.org