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Immigrant workers are protected from employment violations

Immigrant farm workers have always been the most ill-treated of any category of workers. They have worked for piddling wages, lived in sub-human makeshift structures, been forced to work inhuman hours and exposed to the full range of employment violations and discrimination. The shabby treatment is so commonplace that few take the trouble to complain about it, whether it occurs here in Michigan or in other states.

However, when a leading food distributor engages in, or blithely ignores, that kind of shameful human exploitation, governmental action is probably long overdue. One of the functions of the EEOC is to combat discriminatory practices in the workplace. It appropriately stepped up and sued a major company and some of its associated contractors for illegal discriminatory practices.

The EEOC sued Del Monte, an international leader in the distribution of fresh agricultural products and canned goods. The victims are immigrants from Thailand, who are lured here by the company's labor contractors, who make initial promises of paradise only to deliver an inferno of misery and suffering. The EEOC also sued several of those labor suppliers for discriminatory practices and inhuman work conditions.

The result is a recent settlement where Del Monte is paying $1.2 million to the agency for the benefit of the Thai workers who suffered abusive conditions. The abuses were spearheaded by a large Del Monte contractor that actually collected extortionate fees from the Thailand men for the privilege of coming to Hawaii only to be mistreated when they got there. They were underpaid and put in slave-like housing that was unsanitary. They were even physically beaten and terrorized in a variety of ways.

There are immigrant workers in Michigan and throughout the country. Many receive temporary agricultural worker permits to work America's fields and farms. They are protected legally from having to suffer employment violations just as any other workers, and they can file EEOC claims when they are victimized by discrimination and other employment problems.

Source: Los Angeles Times, Del Monte to pay $1.2 million to settle worker-discrimination lawsuit, Stuart Pfeifer, Nov. 18, 2013

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