BROWNSVILLE, Texas – July 9, 2013 – Twenty-five Rio Grande Valley migrant farmworkers have filed a lawsuit against three individuals associated with a Mississippi sweet potato field over false promises of employment, unpaid wages, and abusive living and working conditions.
Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the workers claim that they were recruited to leave Texas to work in a sweet potato field in Mississippi in May of 2012. After traveling nearly one thousand miles for the opportunity, the workers found themselves facing unsanitary conditions and abusive supervisors.
“These workers traveled a long distance based on the promise of a good job,” said TRLA attorney Angela Graves. “But the conditions they were subjected to were unlike anything they were expecting.”
According to the lawsuit, the workers were forced to work long hours without access to adequate bathroom facilities or drinking water. The workers were not paid proper wages for their labor and several of the workers claim that they were physically or verbally assaulted by their supervisors. Additionally, though they were promised housing as a condition of their employment, the workers were forced to live in unsanitary conditions that included dirty bedding and a shower that consisted of cold water coming from an exposed pipe. When some of the workers tried to stand up for their legal rights, they were fired.
The workers are suing under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and state laws in both Texas and Mississippi. The laws provide various protections for workers including rights to certain wages, sanitary working and living conditions, and protection from abuse.
“Workers have the right to humane working and living conditions,” added Graves. “Abusive employers who treat workers poorly will face the consequences.”
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. For more information visit www.trla.org.