05/2006

The Pay

Tree planters are paid by the thousand trees planted, and are told that they are expected to plant 2000 trees or more in an 8 hour day, a task that is often impossible. Workers are routinely cheated out of hundreds of dollars of pay every week on the job.

Virtually every forestry company the Immigrant Justice Project has encountered provides workers with paystubs showing that workers have worked substantially fewer hours than the workers actually worked.

"We planted on land where we could hardly walk through the brush. We had to cut our way through and were not paid for any of this work time. We were only paid per tree planted. We did not earn enough money by production to earn close to the prevailing wage rate on an hourly basis. This was an even bigger problem when the terrain was bad. Some days we had to spend much of the day clearing brush to make the land able to be planted. We were not paid at all for [this time]. We also never received overtime pay, despite the fact that we worked much more than 40 hours per week." 

Armenio Pablo-Calmo, H-2B forestry worker

"We were paid per bag of pines that we would plant. We weren't paid for other tasks that we did, like loading or unloading pines at the cooler or filling our bags with seedlings. At times we would have to wait at the tract during the day until the soil would thaw, and we weren't paid for this time. At times we would have to spend time during the day traveling between the tracts that we would plant and we weren't paid for that time either. We weren't paid for any hours of work that weren't planting." 

Jesus Santiago-Salmoran, H-2B forestry worker

"It was obvious that the checks did not reflect the actual hours that we worked for the [forestry company]. For example, I remember one week in which the Defendants gave me a pay stub that listed a day of my work as follows: 500 trees planted in 0 hours.

"We worked up to 12 or 13 hours and we could only plant 1300 or 1500 seedlings [because of difficult conditions]. Our pay would come out to approximately $25 for a 12 hour workday. ... At the end of the season, I had only saved $500 to send home to my family." 

Escolastico De Leon-Granados, H-2B forestry worker

"The [company] did not pay me the correct wage. Normally I worked around 70 hours a week. ...I can't remember even one time that they paid me for [more than 40 hours]." 

Alejo Carmelino Perrez-Martinez, H-2B forestry worker