Sen. Jackson silent on wage theft charges as group delivers 10,000 name petition

May 31, 2016

“We only asked for what is ours and for what the law says: that we should get paid and that the supervisor stop abusing people. We don’t deserve to lose our jobs for speaking out.” -Valentin, blacklisted worker from Jackson’s farm

NC Senator Brent Jackson has been the target of thousands of emails, tweets, and Facebook messages over the past few weeks, all in support of seven farmworkers who came forward and spoke out about wage theft, unjust firing, and retaliation on his farm.

[photo credit: Phil Fonville]
FarmLaborOrganizingCommittee's Action at Senator Jacksons Office May 2016 album on Photobucket

The pressure on Jackson increased last Thursday, when a group of faith leaders, labor leaders and community allies gathered for a press conference and then delivered a petition with nearly 10,000 signatures to the Senator’s office in Raleigh, calling on him to reinstate the seven farmworkers he illegally blacklisted for speaking out against labor abuses, and pay them the wages they are owed.

“We began to notice that the grower and supervisor would steal our wages by clocking us out for anything they could, like changing fields, waiting for equipment to come, or water breaks. Little by little, this added up and by the end of the season he had stolen thousands of dollars from our wages,” said Valentin Alvarado Hernandez in a statement read at the press conference on his behalf.

SONY DSCShortly before the General Assembly was set to convene, Senator Jackson was predictably absent as a delegation delivered the petition to his office. Julie Taylor, Executive Director of the National Farm Worker Ministry, handed the petition to Jackson’s staff, who thanked the group for bringing forward their concerns, but made no commitment to remedy the issue.

The next day, a Univision reporter approached Jackson at his farm to ask him about the case. “Do you speak English?” a visibly nervous Jackson asked the reporter, before refusing to comment on the case.

Watch the full Univision report here (en Espanol).

Throughout the week, people from all over the country called out Jackson’s inexcusable treatment of farmworkers via social media, and supported the workers’ demands for reinstatement and payment of stolen wages.

We know that the retaliation on Jackson Farms is not uncommon. At the press conference on Thursday, Justin Flores, FLOC Vice President noted that this case is evidence of a much larger problem in agriculture, where farmworkers who speak out have little protection against retaliation. “This example shows how farmworkers are very aware that if they speak up about violations, there are often very real consequences, including blacklisting,” said Flores. “However, growers aren’t the only responsible party. Tobacco giants such as Reynolds American, Philip Morris International, and Alliance One continue to make huge profits, while refusing to sign an agreement with FLOC that would guarantee labor rights and the right to complain without fear of retaliation.”

Thanks to everyone who stood with the blacklisted workers at Jackson Farms last week. There will be updates coming shortly on next steps to hold Senator Jackson accountable and win justice for the seven workers.