For Farmworker Justice, there’s unfortunately no shortage of examples of mistreatment of the people who harvest our fruits and vegetables to illustrate the need to continue fighting for farmworkers’ rights. Our mission is to empower agricultural workers to implement lasting solutions to systemic abuses. We focus on labor rights, immigration policy, health, occupational safety and access to justice.
Last month, Farmworker Justice and Florida Legal Services filed a lawsuit in Florida on behalf of two farmworkers who were among the victims of human trafficking and labor violations while working for a potato grower in Hastings, Florida. The complaint alleges that a farm labor contractor took workers to a squalid, isolated labor camp, where they were supplied with decrepit housing, illegal drugs, and food, for which the workers were loaned money at 100 percent interest. Money was taken from their weekly wages to pay for their rent, food, drugs, and interest, resulting in debts which bound them to their labor contractor.
For decades, agricultural workers have suffered theft of wages and other abuses related to their jobs. As in the case in Hastings, Farmworker Justice’s litigation team brings cases aimed at ending employers' systemic deprivations of workers' rights. Abuses associated with labor contractors are widespread. Many farm operators – or “growers” – hope to escape responsibility as “employers” under labor law and immigration law by claiming that their farmworkers are employed solely by the labor contractor. But everyone needs to be held accountable. That’s why Farmworker Justice works with attorneys and other public-interest organizations throughout the country to bring lawsuits to hold the grower jointly responsible with the labor contractor for complying with the minimum wage and other employment laws. We also advocate at the Department of Labor for greater use of the joint employer concept in its wage-hour enforcement.