Guestworkers Settle Lawsuit Against Mississippi Grower

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            
September 11, 2008                                                 

Contact: Caitlin Berberich, Attorney
615.750.1200 
cberberich@trla.org
Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director
512.374.2764
cmartinez@trla.org

HOUSTON, Mississippi – Thirty-nine Mexican farmworkers have settled a lawsuit against Mississippi sweet potato grower Thorn Custom Harvesting, LLC related to their employment in the United States between 2005 and 2007.

Represented by Southern Migrant Legal Services (SMLS), a project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Edward Tuddenham, and Jackson attorney Robert McDuff, the farmworkers were brought to the United States under the H-2A guestworker program.  The farmworkers claimed that they were not given the amount of work promised in their contracts and that they were not reimbursed for mandatory expenses which caused them to earn less than the federal minimum wage.

“We are very pleased with this settlement,” said Caitlin Berberich, one of the workers’ attorneys and an attorney with SMLS.  “These workers came to the United States ready and willing to work and should not have suffered when their employer didn’t live up to its end of the bargain.” 

The H-2A guestworker program allows employers to hire workers from other countries on temporary work permits when they are unable to find U.S. workers to meet their labor needs.  The program is currently under review and the government is expected to announce formal changes to the program shortly.  

The farmworkers filed their lawsuit on August 30, 2007 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Aberdeen, Ignacio Mercado Garcia, et al. v. Russell Moore, et al., Civ. No. 1:07-cv-00213, U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Miss., Eastern Div.

Southern Migrant Legal Services is a project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) based in Nashville, Tennessee that provides free employment-related legal services to migrant farm workers who work in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.

 
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