RALEIGH, NC: On October
22, 2020, a delegation of H2A guestworkers, members of
the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) deliver a
petition to the Trump Labor Department calling for them to “do
their job” after a case has been lingering in the government
bureaucracy for over a year, as part of the launch of a new
anti-corruption campaign in the Agricultural Guestworker
In September 2019, a group
of workers complained to US DOL about significant workplace
abuses, including wage theft and health risks at Farm Labor
Contractor Salvador Barajas and OJ Smith Farms in
Whitakers, NC. US DOL ignored ongoing retaliation but settled
with Barajas and told workers they would receive backpay from
the labor contractor in November 2019 and issued a press release
in March 2020 celebrating a $500,000 fine for the labor
contractor. However, to date, no one has seen any money or
received an update.
“We haven’t heard anything
about our case since the first day the labor inspector showed up
at the farm. We demand that they tell the victims what is
happening with our wages. Because we’re union members, we
brought a private claim against the grower, but the many workers
that haven’t had that opportunity are depending on the Labor
Department. We sill, we want to know why Salvador has been able
to get off without paying.” -Martin, FLOC Member
This is the same DOL that
collaborates with the tobacco companies through the Farm Labor
Practices Group (FLPG), formed by Reynolds, which contains no
worker representation and has refused for years to assist in any
of the dozens of cases of human rights abuses FLOC has provided
to them, from sexual harassment, wage theft, to threats of
violence. Reynolds and other tobacco companies have funneled
millions of dollars in in-kind contributions to the US DOL
encouraging them to run training programs for the industry.
“The US DOL has chosen
collaboration with violators of workers’ rights and big tobacco
instead of enforcing the law and forcing corrupt labor
contractors and the growers who use them to pay what they owe.
We want the US DOL to use our tax dollars to enforce the law,
not help the tobacco companies hide abuses and violations in
their supply chain.” said FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez.
FLOC has shown the US DOL
and tobacco industry significant proof that corrupt labor
contractors and farm supervisors have created criminal networks
throughout the Eastern United States, violating civil and
criminal laws with impunity.
The union is calling on
these officials to implement a moratorium on approval for H2A
Labor Contractor licensing until they can build a realistic
enforcement mechanism ends the corruption in the program that
has caused much suffering and grown in recent years as crop
prices stagnate and growers seek ways to cut corners and labor
Webinar Teach-In Press
Conference: Wednesday, Oct 21, 7pm: Registration online.
In-person delegation: US
DOL Wage and Hour office, 4407 Bland Rd, Raleigh, NC, Thursday,
Oct. 22, 2020, at noon.