Farm workers in Eastern Tennessee are suing a local farm for poor working conditions and labor law violations. Brought in through the H-2A guest worker program, the workers in question have accused the farm of civil rights violations and threatening and firing workers who complained about the poor treatment.
Under the H-2A program, agricultural employers are required to house their temporary workers. The lawsuit, however, claims that Fish Farm forced workers to live in ramshackle trailers with no clean water. In addition, worker housing was located near fields, which were routinely sprayed with pesticides, exposing workers, according to the claim, to toxic chemicals.
When workers complained to state and federal labor officials, they claim they were physically threatened by their employers. Some workers claim they were threatened with firearms. Two weeks after initial complaints, the employees in questions were fired.
Spokesmen for Fish Farm deny these claims and have stated that they have not yet been served with legal notice of the lawsuit. Upon being served, the Farm states it will respond through legal channels.
This lawsuit comes on the heels of recent immigration debates in Congress. Some agricultural advocates have argued for the loosening of H-2A restrictions, which some immigration rights advocates fear could lead to worker abuses. The publicity and eventual results of this lawsuit could very well impact the Congressional debates over immigration reform.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer