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Farmworkers file suit for wage-theft, and other violations

GRAND RAPIDS, MI, June 25, 2021: On behalf of a class of blueberry workers, Migrant Legal Aid brought a class action against Defendant Adkin Blue Ribbon Packing Company for failure to pay the minimum wage and related violations of agricultural worker protection laws. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in the Western District of Michigan.

The complaint alleges that the Texas-based migrant workers employed at Adkin were paid on a piece-rate basis, but were not ensured they were paid the minimum wage for all the hours they worked. Compounding the problem, workers allege that Adkin did not keep accurate time records and pay records as the law requires. Adkins has been the subject of other labor violations over the years, including child labor.

"This case shows how essential workers are essentially exploited," said Teresa Hendricks, Director of MLA. "It's time to raise the food-conscience of everyone. Healthy produce doesn't land on your plate by accident, there's plenty of exploitation in the food supply chain before it gets there."

MLA attorney Ben O'Hearn is familiar with patterns of injustice. “While not the most egregious case that we've handled, the allegations in this complaint are something that most migrant farm workers will experience at some point in their lives. We’re committed to protecting our clients’ rights to the fullest extent allowed by law and look forward to giving them their day in court,” he said.

The Michigan food and agriculture industry "generates more than $104 billion of total economic activity for Michigan each year,” according to estimates of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Supreme Court Decision Erodes Farmworker Rights

On June 23, 2021 in a 6-3 decision the Supreme Court ruled that farm owners had a right to exclude anyone they want from the workplace. For decades, a California regulation had allowed union organizers limited access to migrant farmworkers at their place of employment.

This had been challenged – and upheld – by the lower courts for years. Organizations that serve farmworkers – like Migrant Legal Aid – exist because farmworkers are an isolated and historically marginalized population. The Court’s decision in Cedar Point Nursery v Hassid will only serve to further that isolation and marginalization.

This decision will not affect Migrant Legal Aid’s ongoing outreach to farmworkers. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts noted that the two work locations in the case did not have any workers who lived on the property. For that reason, MLA’s position is that the right to access farmworker housing established in Folgueras v Hassle has not changed. Chief Judge Fox wrote: 

“The fundamental underlying principle [of his ruling] is simply that real property ownership does not vest the owner with dominion over the lives of those people living on his property.” Farmworkers living in employer provided housing have the right to see guests and associate with whomever they choose.

Hundreds turn out for meeting about housing young migrants

ALMA, Mich., July 18, 2021 (AP): A proposal to turn a former nursing home into temporary housing for young migrants is getting a lot of attention in a central Michigan community.

About 400 people attended a public hearing Monday at Alma High School. Warwick Living Center would be leased to Bethany Christian Services to provide housing for boys for up to 40 days or until a sponsor can be found.

The boys, ages 12 to 17, crossed the southern U.S. border without parents or guardians and do not have legal status in this country.

The Alma Planning Commission is being asked to recommend approval of a rezoning request, which must ultimately go to the City Commission.

``We keep unaccompanied children safe,'' said Krista Stevens of Bethany. ``For many of them, this is truly a life-and-death situation.''

Forty people spoke at the meeting, including 25 who opposed the rezoning, The Morning Sun reported.

``A legal entity can't be denied an opportunity to operate as long as they comply with your requests,'' former city attorney Chuck Fortino told the planning commission.

The rezoning request was tabled, 5-2, until another meeting on Aug. 2.



Copyright © 1989 to 2021 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/20/21 17:27:15 -0700.




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