The H2A guest worker program allows American growers to import guest workers from abroad. The law spells out a lot of rights that these guest workers are due: the sponsoring employer is supposed to provide transportation, housing and meals in addition to the wage promised. However, guest workers are subject to deportation if they displease their sponsor — so as FLOC (the Farm Labor Organizing Committee) often explains, unless there’s a union representing them, they don’t necessarily get what they’ve been promised.
Labor contractor Salvador Barajas, who recruits guest workers for American farms, is a case in point. FLOC has been trying to get DOL’s attention about the scofflaw for months. Well, they got it. According to the DOL press release:
RALEIGH, NC – After a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation, SBHLP Inc. – a Lake Placid, Florida-based H-2A labor contractor that supplied workers for five North Carolina farms – is required to pay $224,249 in wages to 194 employees for violating requirements of the H-2A visa program. The department also assessed the employer a $239,430 civil penalty and debarred the labor contractor for 3 years.
WHD investigators determined SBHLP Inc. and owner Salvador Barajas failed to provide workers at least three meals per day, as per the work order. The employer also failed to reimburse the H-2A workers for their 2018 outbound travel expenses and did not pay for their 2019 inbound travel expenses after they completed 50 percent of their contract, as the law requires.
Investigators also found that the employer collected money from the workers to cover charter bus inbound transportation and required each worker to pay their own visa and border fees while traveling from Mexico to the U.S., all violations under the federal visa program.
Congratulations to our brothers and sisters on their victory over labor exploitation in agriculture!