Our recent coverage of agricultural labor has included both modern-day slavery on tomato farms in Florida and farm workers who were fired for fleeing from a fire.
Last week, the New York Times reported from another perspective: Americans who want jobs on farms and contend they can’t get them due to the abundance of immigrant labor. These displaced workers are mostly black; “the situation is filled with cultural and racial tensions.” Litigation is ongoing:
[There are] a number of legal actions containing similar complaints against farms, including a large one in Moultrie, Ga., where Americans said they had been fired because of their race and national origin, given less desirable jobs and provided with fewer work opportunities than Mexican guest workers. Under a consent decree with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the farm, Southern Valley, agreed to make certain changes.
Alarmingly, a manager at Southern Valley provided an explicitly racist explanation for his company’s reluctance to hire black workers: “In these communities, I am sorry to say, there are no fathers at home, no role models for hard work. They want rewards without input.”
Some Southern Valley laborers are guest workers on H-2 visas. To participate in that program, firms must first attempt to attract American workers; the above-mentioned EEOC litigation found that the farm had failed to meet that requirement. Southern Valley continues to insist, as the Times reports, “that there is no discrimination and that they would prefer to hire locals if they could.”
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