Almost five hundred H-2B guest workers from India, lured by false promises of permanent U.S. residency, paid tens of thousands of dollars each to obtain temporary jobs at Gulf Coast shipyards only to find themselves forced into involuntary servitude and living in overcrowded, guarded labor camps.
In 2011, a federal judge held Arkansas tomato giant Candy Brand and its individual owners accountable for routinely cheating more than 1,800 H-2A migrant farmworkers out of wages. The Court also held that the company’s failure to pay overtime wages and reimburse workers’ expenses was a breach of Candy Brand’s H-2A contract with each worker it exploited. As a result, the company and owners entered into a $1.5 million dollar settlement. One of those owners, who now operates a new tomato farming operation that is one of the top ten users of the H-2A program in the country, filed for bankruptcy protection after failing to make a settlement payment. His new company also filed for bankruptcy protection, but continues to be a top ten user of the H-2A program, importing more than 700 H-2A workers each year.
More than 350 H-1B Filipino guest workers lured to teach in Louisiana public schools were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars and forced into exploitative contracts as part of an illegal scheme run by labor contractors. After a two week trial, a federal jury found the Los Angeles based labor contractor liable for $4.5 million in damages to the 350 class members. The Court also ruled that the contracts teachers were forced to sign by the labor contractor were illegal, null, and void.
H-2A migrant farmworkers in south Georgia claimed they were grossly underpaid while working for subsidiaries of the food giant Del Monte Fresh Produce. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit to recover the wages. A confidential settlement agreement was reached in the case. The defendants did not admit liability.
This class action lawsuit on behalf of approximately 2,200 H-2B guest workers against Superior Forestry alleged violations of minimum wage and overtime protections, as well as violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The company and its owners entered into a $2.75 million settlement in 2010 and agreed to future compliance.
Between 1999 and 2008, approximately 4,000 H-2B guest workers were lured from Mexico and Guatemala to plant pine trees for Eller and Sons Trees, Inc., at the time the nation’s largest forestry contractor. A federal judge ruled in October 2008 that the workers had not been paid the wages they had earned. The case resulted in a record $11.8 million judgment against the company and its owner.
Class action lawsuit on behalf of H-2B workers against forestry company for violations of minimum wage and overtime protections, and for other violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The case settled shortly after it was filed.
This class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of hundreds of H-2B workers against Arkansas-based Express Forestry for violations of minimum wage and overtime protections and for violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. During the course of the litigation, the Court had to enter a protective order against the company after workers and their families received death threats. The case later settled, but Express Forestry again found itself in trouble with the Court and was held in contempt for failure to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement.
New regulations for the nation’s H-2B guest worker program, enacted in the waning days of the Bush administration, threatened to lower wage rates, weaken worker protections, and make it easier to replace U.S. workers with temporary foreign labor. The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of immigrant rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit and successfully challenged the new regulations.
H-2B employers across the United States launched legal challenges to defeat new federal rules that would protect foreign H-2B guest workers and U.S. workers. The SPLC sought unsuccessfully to intervene in the lawsuit, which alleged that the U.S. Department of Labor, the primary governmental agency in the United States charged with protecting workers, lacks authority to regulate the H-2B program and H-2B employers.