Sunday, July 19, 2015
The United States has long had a variety of "guest worker" programs. But at least from the Bracero Program on, there also have been problems ensuring adherence to that wage, condition, and other protections. Consequently, some commentators are skeptical about new or expanded guest worker programs in any immigration reform proposal.
Danny Walsh of the Sacramento Bee tells a cautionary tale about abuses of guest workers. After seven years of legal battling, a group of 66 farmworkers from Mexico state have been fully paid for work in orchards and vineyards in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A farm labor contractor and four growers continue to deny allegations the workers made in lawsuits that they were cheated out of pay and subjected to inhumane conditions. The final tally of the settlements: $685,000 paid by the defendants; $491,871 to the workers as wages, penalties and interest, and $193,129 to their attorneys as fees and expenses.
The Mexican laborers had come to the Sacramento Valley on temporary work permits known as H-2A visas, arranged by the contractor with the support of the growers.
Cynthia Rice, an attorney at California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., was lead counsel for the workers.