H2A Labor Contractors are a critical issue in agriculture across the nation. From North Carolina to Ohio, contractors are taking union jobs and allowing abuse to run rampant. We are reiterating its support for a moratorium on the approval of visas for farm labor contractors in the H2A “guestworker program” as a report by the Economic Policy Institute outlines that over 70% of these contractors have violated federal labor law.
The report analyzes data from the US Department of Labor, showing dangerously high percentages of violations uncovered in the notoriously understaffed agency investigations. “These are just the tip of the iceberg, as the DOL generally only investigates when someone complains and threats and intimidation are common with the types of employers,” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez.
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 report confirms what we’ve been saying for years, that the supply chains of some of the world’s largest agricultural corporations, like Reynolds American and Philip Morris International are rife with abuse. After over a decade of inaction, we call on Reynolds American and the US DOL to put an end to the exploitation of farm workers and the uneven playing field that union growers have to compete with.”
The raw data shows that cases like Flavio’s are far too common. Recruited with commitments for work in blueberries, he was charged $1,700 USD for an opportunity to work on an H2A visa and told he’d be living in a motel. After borrowing that money at high interest in Mexico, he arrived at a single-wide trailer with no beds and two bedrooms, housing 19 coworkers during the COVID pandemic. Flavio was refused basic wage commitments and when he and others spoke to union representatives, they were retaliated against by losing work opportunities. Without money, Flavio was forced to abandon his work contract and approached the grower, who blamed the labor contractor, who blamed another subcontractor and no one would pay him wages owed. Flavio is seeking redress in the courts, while the contractor continues to charge workers for visas and sign more contracts with growers.
“Our union seeks the right to organize and achieve the basic right to self-enforce the law on the worksite through our own democratic union. It shouldn’t be too much to ask in the international supply chains of some of the wealthiest corporations in the world.” Said Velasquez.
Get updates on our campaign to Stop Corrupt Contractors here.