BP pays stripper not fisherman


Adding insult to physical and mental injuries in Gulf Coast communities where destitute residents are struggling with unpaid claims, BP paid $80,000 to a stripper recently, but nothing to many fishermen. One Gulf Shores, Alabama fisherman has only been paid $15,000 – in six months. Living without meals, electricity and even a home because of unjust government and BP systematic abuse are realities for many Gulf Coast families, a reality that hits even harder at holiday time, such as Thanksgiving.

To prevent starvation, families in Alabama fishing communities are forced to rely on eating Gulf seafood. They are out of work; many BP claims are not honored; and many worked for VOO, BP’s “Vessels Of Opportunity” cleaning toxic waters and beaches.

An estimated 10-25% of legitimate BP claims by Gulf Shores fishermen have not been paid according to one couple there. Along with neighbors, they are outraged over learning what pbrcoastie‘s November 12th post on WKRG News forum exposed:

“So…take this for what you will. A good friend of mine who works at a credit union here in town said an ’employee’ of cookies and cream walked in and cashed a $80K check for her claim against BP. She was due to a drop in business. I am so sick at some of these outlandish claims. This is disgusting considering the number of legit claims that are still waiting to be paid.”

Why are local, licensed, legitimate commercial fishermen lowest on BP’s payment totem pole?

Surviving major hurricane easier than BP

Last winter was the worst in history for Gulf fishermen and their families – until BP hit them Spring of 2010 according to 46-year old James Martin, a commercial fisherman sinced the age of 21, out of work since the BP-Deepwater Horizon explosion left Gulf coast fishing communities destitute.

“This is BS,” said Martin in an interview with him and his partner, Theresa Goins, who apologized for their coughing. They said they are “both sick as dogs” but want to get their story out in hopes of help.

They have each had a “cold” for three weeks and keep hearing the local pediatrician’s clinic is “over-run” with sick people.

In four days, the couple will have their power cut. No electricity.

In one week, they lose one vehicle and the next week, their other one. No transportation.

Martin has received one payment since April, $15,000. that finally came through in August. He has received nothing since President Barack Obama’s former pay tsar, Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg took over BP’s claims as Gulf spill fund administrator. The writer was unable to reach Mr. Feinberg Sunday.

They like everyone else in the couple’s fishing village, Martin and Goins continue eating the seafood.

“We have no choice,” Martin said, explaining, “When someone in the community here has a catch, it’s shared with everyone.”

“That’s just the way we are.”

Goins commented how tragic it is seeing families with children evicted from their homes, moving into motels, and then, evicted from those due to inability to pay because BP is not paying claims to legitimate workers left with nothing since the explosion.

They said it was good that 600 families in Bayou LaBatry had just received food for a week.

“It was enough food to feed a family of four for a week,” Goins said, adding, “We have it bad, but to see children hungry with no place to live because of this, we know there are people worse off then us.”

Unbeknown to most Americans, hunger had set in among Gulf coastal residents as early as August when an Alabama person, Sandrabtoo commented about BP and Feinberg:

“They have no clue how bad it is here, nor do they care…’One lie after the other’ This new guy makes me wish I was dealing with the BP adjustors again. At least I got enough money to eat. I have eaten all of the food in my freezer during the wait for BP to turn this over to Feinberg. I have begged for food just to feed my two dogs. I will do without before allowing them to suffer. I have only asked them to give me what I was earning before the spill nothing more. I have now lost what little hope I had left.”

Feinberg’s arrival on board, however, brought more “Beyond Petroleum” pain and suffering. As a commercial fisherman, helping supply food for American’s dinners, Martin boasts that he spent nine and a half hours out on the waters during Hurricane Earl in 1998 when his boat capsized.

“I’d rather do that than what BP is putting me through,” Martin said.

“They lie. They keep us on the phone waiting for 45 minutes. They say they need a copy of my license, but I gave it to them 4 times. It’s the same BS every day. Excuse my French,” he said.

After told the third time that the same three important certificate copies were not in the packet, with little resources they had, they drove to Mobile to hand deliver the required documents the 4th time.

The next time they called to see about the status of the claim, they were told the packet was incomplete. The same 3 pages, #2, #3, and #11 were missing.

“We drove back and gave it to them again. Why is it that some people file a claim on Monday and have a check on Thursday?”

“Why do they keep losing the 3 most important parts of my claim?”

Many people getting claims paid are not even locals according to Martin. They are among the carpet baggers that descended on coastal communities to make a fast buck, as reported to Dupre by several local coastal residents.

Martin’s partner said one of the hardest things to take is when other people tell the fishermen to “get a real job.”

People do not understand that commercial fishing is a job. It is not a sport. It’ hard work every day of the year, she said. “We go out for eight days; work hard; come back in; wash everything and head back out again. That’s our life. It’s not just a job.”

“My life was in that Gulf,” Martin said.

“My waters are still closed, My boat is under major overhaul because I worked it continuously for 9 weeks for clean up, but I cannot complete it until BP/Feinberg pays me something. I’ve gotten nothing from them since August. My claim is in limbo, and I am so legit. What is up with this process?”

“I can’t do nothing.”

James Martin, like many out-of-work fisherman, had taken a “VOO job,” so-called “Vessel Of Opportunity.” The opportunity he wanted was to earn money to repair his boat so he could travel to clean waters and fish, his life and his profession. Without money owed to him, however, he cannot make the repairs or fish.

“It’s heart-breaking,” he said in his sobbing.

“It’s all I can do keep him from having a heart-attack over BP not paying us,” his girlfriend said.

Every day begins the same, she said.

“Before anything else, he asks me to check the computer to see if his money has come though.”

But every day, the answer is the same.

Every day, their lives are consumed in jumping through the same hoops, over and over for BP that continues to not pay them.

They said it’s no wonder people are committing suicide.

They need what is rightfully theirs that BP and government are depriving them. But instead of money due, food, medical care and electricity in their home, the government has offered mental help.

One of friend’s committed suicide as several others in their area have.

Human resource help? “They’re useless!” they both said.

Case managers to advocate for them? “No such thing.”

“We’ve got nobody to help us.”

“If you lived in a farming community that grew only corn to survive and one year, there was a blight or something that ruined all the corn crops, the government would help by paying. Why is it not the same for us fishermen?” he asked.

“We get nothing.”

“Land of opportunity? That’s what they call America? This is no land of opportunity. This government took all our opportunity.”

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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