Arkansas Ag Firm Agrees to $1.5 Million in Back Wages for Guest Workers
An Arkansas agriculture company has agreed to pay $1.5 million in back wages to 1,500 guest workers in a settlement with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The group filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the workers in 2007.
Jim Knoepp, the lead SPLC attorney on the case, says:
This settlement sends an important message that guest workers have rights. Companies treating guest workers as disposable labor should take notice. They will be held accountable.
The guest workers—in the country under the federal H-2A agricultural guest worker program—harvested and packed tomatoes for Candy Brand in Bradley County, Ark., from 2003 to 2007. The 2007 lawsuit alleged that the company failed to pay its guest workers federally mandated minimum wages and failed to pay overtime wages for work in its packing sheds.
To cover travel expenses and applications for visas, Candy Brand’s workers paid up to $500 simply to work for the company during eight-week harvests. The SPLC lawsuit alleged the company refused to reimburse workers for the travel, visa and other fees they paid to obtain the jobs—a problem commonly faced by guest workers.