Friday, March 16, 2007
Twenty-two Thai workers have filed a lawsuit against the former owners of a North Carolina labor contracting company that they allege held them captive, threatened them with violence, stole their money, and did not pay for their labor. Many of the workers were recruited in Thailand by the labor contracting company and told that for a fee of $11,000, they could work as farmworkers in North Carolina for eight dollars per hour. When they arrived in North Carolina, they found a very different scenario. Their passports and return plane tickets were taken from them, they only worked a few days per week on the farms, and they were sent to live in a storage building where they were forced to sleep on the floor and share just one bathroom. The lawsuit is seeking repayment of the recruiter’s fees, and payment of the promised wages and of damages. Kate Woomer-Deters, a lawyer with LSC-funded Legal Aid of North Carolina, which is representing the workers, says, “There’s a desire for a work force that’s not going to speak up. Any time you can get people who are more vulnerable than Hispanic workers, unfortunately, that’s an attractive work force.” Kristin Collins, Workers: Promise Became a Prison; Thai Men Sue N.C. Contractor, The News & Observer (North Carolina), Mar. 10, 2007.
Stories like this are all-too-common nowadays. Human trafficking and labor exploitation can be traced to U.S. immigration law and enforcement.