05/16/2006

SPLC Documents Abuse of Migrant Forestry Workers

Alvaro Hernandez-Lopez traveled from his home in Guatemala to work in the United States. Like hundreds of other "guest workers," he performs backbreaking, often dangerous, forestry work in the pinelands across the South.

 

Yet Lopez and other migrant forestry workers are routinely denied basic human rights once they arrive in this country. They are systematically underpaid and abused by unscrupulous employers who treat them as virtual indentured servants.

As the nation debates immigration policy, there are proposals that would expand the guest worker program. This will only lead to more abuse of these vulnerable workers unless their rights are vigorously protected by the government.

The Center's Immigrant Justice Project has documented the widespread exploitation of forestry workers and is pressing for reform of this broken system.

"Beneath the Pines: Stories of Migrant Tree Planters" tells the story of Lopez and other forestry workers, all of whom are plaintiffs in a series of lawsuits filed by the IJP against forestry companies. It also offers specific recommendations to ensure the safety and fair treatment of migrant workers.