Sunday, September 30, 2007

Workers Certified for Collective Action

J. Guadalupe Resendiz-Ramirez, J. Eloy Resendiz-Ramirez, Enoc Ramirez-Perez, Baltasar Trejo-Mata, Luis Guerrero-Ramirez, and Alejandro Trejo-Leon came to Arkansas in 2005 to work for P&H Forestry under the federal H-2 A program that allows agribusiness to request temporary visas for foreign workers when they say sufficient U. S. labor cannot be found.

In April, the six Mexican farm laborers filed suit in federal court and claimed that the company and its owners paid them less than the federal minimum wage, failed to pay them on time, used them for such unauthorized work as collecting trash for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, and retaliated against workers who tried to claim their labor rights.

Judge Harry F. Barnes of U. S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in El Dorado on Thursday certified for collective action their lawsuit against Hermitage-based P&H Forestry LLC, Brent Harrod, John Harrod and Andre Blanchard and ordered the defendants to provide the plaintiffs with contact information for all similarly situated workers that they employed in Arkansas from September 2004 to the present.

Arkansas law provides very few rights or protections for agricultural workers, who are not even covered under basic state minimum wage, unemployment, or worker compensation laws when they are injured. The Arkansas Farm Bureau and agribusiness interests in Arkansas always oppose legislation for the protection of farm workers, and conservative legislators are seldom persuaded to support Arkansas workers’ rights in face of that opposition.

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