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Why is Scientology’s cruise ship caught up in a lawsuit about human slavery?

FreewindsHullIn 2005, two Cuban workers showed up in the town of Willemstad, on the island of Curaçao in the Caribbean, and said they had escaped hellish conditions at a nearby drydock facility, where they’d been held for years. A third worker had made his own escape from the drydock a few months earlier.

One of the three men had worked at the facility a decade. The other two had arrived in 2001 and 2002. They said that they, along with about a hundred other men, were forced into the jobs as part of a deal to pay off Cuba’s debt to the Curaçao Drydock Company. After they had arrived, their passports were seized and they had been working 112 hours a week and under dangerous conditions for only about three cents an hour. The rest of the $6.90 an hour they were supposed to be earning went to pay off Cuba’s debt.

In 2002 one of the men, Alberto Justo Rodriguez Licea, fell and broke his foot and ankle when the system suspending him while he scraped rust from a hull snapped. He was sent back to Cuba, and after he healed, was then returned to Curaçao to keep working. In 2004, plaintiff Fernando Alonso Hernandez was returned to Cuba after burning his hand while welding steel. He too was returned to the drydock after he had healed.

And the third man, Luis Alberto Casanova Toledo, may have had it the worst. In 2005, he was working in tight quarters and in the presence of water while electricity was being used.

Mr. Casanaova Toledo received a shock so severe that the electricity shot out of his tongue, leaving him bleeding from it. Mr. Casanova Toledo, still recovering from the shock and with blood streaming down from his mouth and soaking his shirt, was ordered back to work to finish the last hours of his 16-hour shift.

The men were essentially slaves, they said, and they risked their lives to escape the facility, then made it to Venezuela and then were allowed to enter the U.S. on special visas. In 2006, they filed a federal lawsuit in Florida, accusing the drydock company of an unholy deal that made them indentured servants with no rights.

In 2008, the three men won a huge victory when the drydock company (whose largest shareholder was the Netherlands Antilles government) fired its Florida attorneys and essentially didn’t show up for trial. A judge in Miami awarded the men $80 million in damages in what was hailed as a historic ruling under the Alien Tort Act, which allows plaintiffs to sue in American courts for violations that happen in other countries.

Winning a huge award and collecting on it, however, are two different things.

And that’s where Scientology comes in.

One of our tipsters noticed that Scientology’s entities that operate the church’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds, have been sucked into the case, and have been hit with “writs of garnishment.” Writs have been issued against Scientology’s ‘Flag Service Organization’ (FSO runs the Clearwater, Florida ‘spiritual mecca’ of Scientology) and the ‘Flag Ship Service Organization’ (FSSO operates the Freewinds).

Recently, we talked with Seth Miles, one of the Florida attorneys representing the three Cuban plaintiffs, who helped us understand why Scientology has become involved in the lawsuit.

“The only reason the church is involved, when you have a judgment that’s outstanding, one of mechanisms you can use is you can file a writ of garnishment on people who you think owe the defendant money,” he told us.

So, because Scientology has had the Freewinds get repairs done at the Curaçao drydock, the Cuban plaintiffs have had the court file writs against the church entities, demanding that they pay whatever they owe the drydock company to the Cuban workers instead.

“Instead of paying them, pay us,” Miles explained.

In October, Scientology answered the writs by saying that it didn’t owe the drydock company any money, and asked for attorney’s fees to be awarded for the bother.

But we noticed this week that the writs against Scientology were renewed on April 1, leading us to conclude that the plaintiffs don’t believe Scientology and are still pressing to get what they figure the church owes.

Again, however, we want to make clear that the money we’re talking about are alleged debts that Scientology would be paying the drydock anyway, for repairs already performed on the Freewinds.

There’s no suggestion that Scientology was involved in the unseemly parts of the lawsuit — the treatment of the Cuban workers before they escaped in 2005. However, it’s not really doing the church any favors to be associated with this legal quagmire.

Why? Because it can’t help but bring up Scientology’s own treatment of employees, many of them working 112-hour weeks and for pennies an hour.

In 2009 and 2010, the FBI investigated Scientology over allegations of human trafficking of its “Sea Org” workers, who sign billion-year contracts and work under grueling conditions. Does it really look good for Scientology, with its own history of labor horror stories, to get into a prolonged fight over paying money it owes in order to make whole a few Cuban workers who were treated like slaves?

Hey, Scientology. You might just want to pay this bill and walk away before anyone besides us notices what’s going on.

Just sayin’.


Video Vault: The Org Board and Livingness!

Our video source came through for us again, and this time we have a treat. It’s 1965, and L. Ron Hubbard is telling us that he has the magic ingredient for any organization to obtain maximum efficiency, whether it has three people or 200,000. The secret? An “org board.” But what really makes this special is not the org board itself (it’s just a jobs chart, for crissakes) but where Hubbard says he got it — from an ancient galactic civilization that existed trillions of years ago. Woo hoo! We wish these “quote videos” had more of that kind of space opera in them.

Anyway, Bridge Publications sells the Org Board & Livingness lecture for the amazingly low price of $15, and here’s the website’s description:

“Transcending anything Man has previously understood on organization, the Org Board embraces the whole of life, delineating purpose, the alignment of purpose for each of its members, a built-in system of self correction to prevent counter-purposes—and all of it paralleling The Bridge with each successive department representing an awareness level directly corresponding to those an individual ascends on the Grade Chart. Here, then, is L. Ron Hubbard’s legendary lecture revealing the pattern by which to organize life itself.”

Life itself! OK, without further ado:


Once again we asked Marc Headley to give the video a look and tell us what he knows about its production.

This one is great. It has tons of blown Int Base staff in it. We start off with Philip Mitchell (blown), Martina Une, and Hans Smith. Then we pick up with Ron Sommerville & Jim Moonie (blown). At 1:54 we see Stephanie Headley (my sister who has since been offloaded to a place in Canada) at reception greeting Marissa Profitlich (blown). In the background you will see David Flood, Stewart Williams and Glen Briggs (blown) as well as Martina Une again. Up next is Lane Porter, Sandra Lewis, Becky Horne, Luanda Gouessan, Camilla Andersen (blown) and Ronnie Rathburn (Marty’s brother) [This is not correct. He is not related to Marty — Tony.]. In the Bookstore we have Nancy Vaughn (Black in PAC) & Tori Schell (blown) before we get into a VFX graphic that might have worked better for a song by The Who. Back at 3:06 we catch up with Hans-Heinrich Pederson & Pauline Flood. Joy Moritz, Caroline Sproule walk across the lobby before we our token black guy, Tony Pinder, with Urd Priester. Urd Priester is the one who oversaw the new staff uniform designs. Any time you see the designs with the women who have insane long legs, that is Urd’s work. Sitting in for the Word Clearer is Lori Cancilla. Doing E-meter drills we have Carol Stein & Ray Reiser. Then we see Lucky Story supervising John Wiley. We have Donna Stilo (RPF’d) walking across the lobby (her Mom, Anna famously visited Mosey in a video down in Texas) with Sharder Starkey (RPF’d) when Jim Lucas pops out from a walkway in the background.

Next up is Jessica Wieneke (Gilchrist) (who was famously “persecuted” in Germany by being bullied in school for being a child Scilon) auditing Alison Clarke. Then we have John Willoughby (blown) CS’ing while William Delderfield picks up folders. Then we have Mike Brown (blown) completing his Solo Course while Deidre Brousseau (JB’s ex-wife) claps for him. Then we have four people reading out of one book (not awkward at all) James Porter (who got busted as LRH PR for looking at entheta photo of Dave Miscavige on the Internet), Mike Gilchrist, Steve Hodkin & Joanne Winer.

At 4:11 we have a huge course room shot that is packed with Becky Horne, Kim Leach Fries, Uli Ginter, Mike Gilchrist, Agnes & Zsuzsa Mathe (both blown), Bill Brugger, and tons of other blown staff with their backs to camera.

Adam Reuveni wears one of those dorky yellow Scientology Vulture Minister jackets closes out the video. The thing I love about this video is that it is all about Hubbard’s “revolutionary” galactic game-changing technology called the Org Board. Every single Sea Org installation, organization in Scientology (Ideal or otherwise), Narconons, Scientology schools, TWTH, front groups, even companies owned and run by Scientologists are all required to have and use an Org Board. There was only one place in the world of Scientology that did not use or have this technology in place — the Scientology Int Base. If this Org Board technology was Superman, David Miscavige was its kryptonite. That dude would not have an org board in place no matter what. Some say that was the final blow that Shelly Miscavige was locked up for. She put people on posts according to an Org Board.

Anyway, if there is one thing that David Miscavige truly despises it is any sort of organization. His pint size (micro) management style would never work if there were one of these Org Boards in place.

Last I heard from someone who was there a few months ago was that there is still no real Org Board and they have even fewer people than ever trying to do nothing all day.

Thanks again for those great insights, Marc.


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 12, 2014 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer


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