South Texas Farmworkers Sue Over Violations of Labor Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact
Marinda van Dalen, Attorney * 956-982-5543 * mvandalen@trla.org
Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director * 512.374.2764 * cmartinez@trla.org

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – July 20, 2010 – Twenty migrant farmworkers have filed a lawsuit against Iowa-based seed corn producer Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. for violating their labor and employment rights last summer.

Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) and Indiana Legal Services (ILS), the workers were employed by Pioneer during the summer of 2009 to work corn fields in Indiana. In their lawsuit, the workers complain that they were lied to regarding their earnings and returned to the Rio Grande Valley with only a fraction of what they had been promised.  In addition, the workers allege that Pioneer took illegal deductions from their pay.  The lawsuit also complains that Pioneer provided the farmworkers with badly rundown and overcrowded housing, forcing workers to share beds, and that the workers suffered exposure to pesticides when a crop duster sprayed a field while they were working.

According to TRLA attorney Marinda van Dalen, “Pioneer took advantage of hard working farmworkers who were just trying to support themselves and their families. The workers were lured to travel from Texas to Indiana with false promises. Nothing was as it should have been.”

The lawsuit claims that the workers’ rights were violated under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Virtually every year TRLA receives complaints from workers regarding Pioneer’s employment practices.  This lawsuit is the fourth large federal case brought by TRLA on behalf of farmworkers against the company in the last five years.

Karla Trujillo, one of the workers named in the lawsuit, summed up the feelings of many of the workers by adding, “Pioneer and the crew leader treated us horribly.  We really needed the money they promised us and we worked hard.  We trusted them and they broke all their promises.”

Added van Dalen, “Workers cannot be treated this way. Pioneer needs to know that if they violate labor rights, they will be help accountable. It is appalling that we have cases like this against them virtually every year.”

Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil 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 civil legal assistance and related educational services.

Indiana Legal Services, Inc. (ILS) was founded in 1966. There are eight  ILS offices offering free legal services to eligible clients in all of Indiana’s 92 counties. ILS’s mission is to use its resources to provide the indigent with aggressive, quality legal services which will help them gain equal access to the courts, empower them to control their lives, and impact on the major effects and causes of poverty.

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