WESLACO, Texas – June 5, 2013 – A new educational campaign aims to inform local migrant farmworkers of their legal rights before they leave the Rio Grande Valley for the summer months.
Developed by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the campaign educates local farmworkers on their legal rights and how to protect themselves if they think their rights are being violated.
“Many migrant workers aren’t aware that they have rights when they are working in other states for the season,” said Daniela Dwyer, TRLA attorney and manager of the farmworker division. “Our goal is to empower workers to protect themselves while they are away from home.”
Every year TRLA helps migrant farmworkers and families who return to the Rio Grande Valley with complaints about their seasonal employers. Common complains include wage theft, being forced to work in unsafe conditions, and being physically assaulted or held against their will. Many workers also suffer retaliation from their employers when they try to enforce their rights.
According to TRLA, the best thing a worker can do to protect themselves is to get a written description of the details of their job from their employer. That contract should be in their primary language and include information such as where they will be working, the dates and hours of work, the type of job to be performed, and the wages that will be paid. The contract should also include whether the employer will be providing housing, transportation, and workers’ compensation in the event of an accident, and what expenses will be the employee’s responsibility. The Agricultural Worker Protection Act gives workers the right to a written document that describes the terms of their job, although this requirement is frequently ignored by contractors, recruiters and employers.
“Employers should provide workers with this information before enticing workers to move across the country to take a job,” added Dwyer. “Workers who are interested in learning more about their rights are encouraged to contact us for free advice.”
Migrant farmworkers can contact Texas RioGrande Legal Aid at 1-800-369-0574 for free legal assistance or advice.
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.