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(Washington, D.C.)Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, sent a letter to Steven Newman, the CEO of Transocean, demanding copies of legal waivers that surviving crew members of the Deepwater Horizon were reportedly forced to sign following the oil rig explosion. Murray called on the company to increase worker safety and fully respect worker rights in the wake of these disturbing allegations.

“Reports of the callous treatment of Transocean’s workers in the hours following the explosion of their rig make this disaster even more of a tragedy,” Senator Murray said.  “These reports suggest that Transocean put their bottom line above safety standards, environmental impact and, unconscionably, the well-being of their workers.  Transocean needs to produce the requested documents so we can get to the bottom of exactly how this situation was handled. Workers everywhere should feel confident that their employer is putting their safety first and I am committed to getting to the bottom of these allegations and ensuring that this company is held accountable for any wrongdoing against their workers.”

In her capacity as Chair of the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, Senator Murray has held hearings looking into worker safety violations in such operations as coal mines, sugar plants and oil refineries. She has also been outspoken about the need to protect American taxpayers from the costs of cleaning up this disaster.

The full text of Senator Murray’s letter follows:

Steven L. Newman
President and CEO
Transocean
P.O. Box 2765
Houston, Texas 77252-2765 

Mr. Newman:

The events surrounding the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon have become a major concern for myself, Washingtonians and the American public. While I am extremely concerned by the environmental and economic impact of the ongoing uncapped oil spill, the treatment and safety of your workers has also been called into question.

I have become aware that Transocean may have coerced several survivors of the Deepwater Horizon to sign legal documents to effectively waive their rights to future medical care and reimbursement. More specifically, several news outlets have reported that members of the surviving crew of the Deepwater Horizon were not allowed to contact or rejoin their families and loved ones until they signed documents waiving some of their legal recourses against Transocean. 

I am concerned that these documents were acquired while the surviving crew was under duress.   I have also contacted the Department of Justice to determine whether any of the aforementioned actions are in violation of any criminal or civil statutes.

I am formally requesting a copy of the legal documents that the surviving crew members of the Deepwater Horizon signed, as well as a full list of your employees forced into signing such documents.  Furthermore, I am requesting a full account from the crewmembers who signed these legal documents.  The allegations concerning Transocean are extremely troublesome and are cause for deep concern – America’s workers deserve better.

It is bad enough that too many of our workers have become subject to unsafe work environments; it is unacceptable that Transocean has allegedly taken advantage of these same workers. I expect that your company has significant and substantive plans to increase worker safety and to fully respect worker rights in the wake of these disturbing allegations. In the meantime, I appreciate your cooperation with my request and I look forward to reviewing the requested documents.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator