Trial starts for a Tulsa firm accused of exploiting some of its workers

Wednesday, March 2nd 2005, 10:11 am
By: News On 6

The second phase of the case against Tulsa's John Pickle Company began Wednesday with more stories of long hours, bad working conditions, and threats of jail.

The John Pickle Company is accused of exploiting a group of Indian workers who thought they had come here to work as equals with American workers and instead, they claim they were held in virtual captivity.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says attorneys for the government spent most of the day Wednesday with their first witness, Toofan Mondal.

Mondal was a cook at the John Pickle Company. He says that when he was in India and was being recruited to work for Pickle, he was told he would have living conditions at the west Tulsa factory that were like those of the typical American family. Instead he says, he was taken aback to find a long, narrow room that he says was more like a hallway than a room, with rows of bunk beds.

He says he often had to work 7 days a week and much more than 8 hours a day, all for a fixed salary of $500 a month. He says Pickle managers assured him he would get pay-raises and better equipment, but that it never happened.

US Equal Employment attorney Robert Canino: "It looks to me to be a clear-cut case of worker exploitation driven by a discriminatory intent by this company against the Indian workers."

Mondal says he is now living in Dallas working as a cook and making about $3,000 a month.

The trial, at the Tulsa federal courthouse, is a non-jury trial and is expected to take 2 or 3 weeks.