TAKE ACTION: Lawsuit alleges stolen wages, threats, and retaliation by Jackson Farms
Seven former workers at Jackson Farming Company, the Sampson County farm owned by State Senator Brent Jackson, have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the farm, Jackson, and his son Rodney alleging gross violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, and are seeking unpaid wages and damages.
Former worker José Alberto Aguilera-Hernandez says that Rodney Jackson confronted him on October 27, 2015, demanding that he pay $2,400 to replace a gas pump piece broken during a workplace accident. Aguilera-Hernandez refused, was fired on the spot, and was forced to leave the farm.
Jackson then withheld back wages from the previous week’s work. Aguilera-Hernandez, a worker on an H2A visa from Mexico, was forced to solicit help from a local storeowner to get back home. The plaintiffs in the case say that farm employees threatened them to try to get them to drop the lawsuit, and after they went forward, were refused employment. With the way the H2A program works, Farm Labor Organizing Committee spokeswoman Briana Kemp says, the worker has to be formally requested by a grower in order to be brought to work in the U.S.
“I couldn’t believe he would treat another human being this way,” Aguilera-Hernandez said in a statement. “He knows I don’t know anyone here and don’t have any way of finding a place to stay or a way home.”
FLOC has a contract with the North Carolina Growers’ Association (NCGA) that covers about 7 percent of the state’s 100,000 farmworkers.
Senator Jackson’s farm was a member of the NCGA until last year when almost two dozen workers used the protections of their union contract to file and win a grievance over unpaid wages that resulted in over 20 of them receiving hundreds of dollars. Kemp says Jackson quit the NCGA to prevent the union from calling him on his “illegal practices”.
Six other workers have joined Jose Aguilera-Hernandez in suing their former employer, Jackson Farms.
According to FLOC, Jackson Farm employees tried to scare them into dropping the lawsuit, but when intimidation failed, Senator Jackson blacklisted them all, denying them any work in 2016.
“People that work at the farm are scared for their job; that is why no one ever complains,” Aguilera-Hernandez told Indy Week. “Now, I will do anything I can to make sure this grower doesn’t get away with this and that he changes the way he treats people.”
Tell Senator Jackson and tobacco companies, “We won’t stand for retaliation!”
State Senator Brent Jackson’s farm has blacklisted seven workers from getting any work in 2016 because they had the courage to stand up to his bullying, wage theft, and illegal retaliation.
FLOC will deliver the letter with your signature to tobacco companies buying North Carolina tobacco and call on them to guarantee freedom of association to all tobacco farmworkers!
“This is what happens when workers aren’t free to organize and negotiate fair terms of employment, and when there is no safe grievance mechanism for workers to voice complaints,” says FLOC in a post on its website.
“This is what it looks like when employers use fear to keep workers silent, even when their wages are being stolen or they’re forced to work in unsafe conditions. And this is exactly why tobacco companies must work with FLOC to ensure that freedom of association is protected on every tobacco farm, and that all workers can safely speak out against injustice.”
— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) April 29, 2016
Join us May 5th in Winston-Salem to demand tobacco giant Reynolds American take responsibility for labor law violations and human rights abuses on its contract farms.