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2011 Iowa Farm Custom
Farm Labor in California
Wages and Fringes
The Teamsters and UFCW represent farm
The apparently unauthorized workers


The INS has mounted several farm-related enforcement operations:

■ Stockton area FLCs: INS audited 71 FLCs in the spring and summer of 2000, reviewed 10,628 I-9 forms, and found that 7,509 or 71 percent of the employees appeared to be unauthorized. There were 15,000 workers reported to EDD by all agricultural service firms in June 2000 in San Joaquin county.
■ Yakima-area apple packing plants: 10 to 70 percent of workers appeared to be unauthorized in winter 1999; 1,700 employees with discrepancies were identified, and most quit when informed that INS was coming to interview them.
■ Vanguard in Nebraska--4,500 or 17 percent of 26,000 meat packing employees were suspect. Most quit--23 were arrested at INS interviews in May-June 1999.


Farm Labor in California


The apparently unauthorized workers who quit before the INS arrives to do work place interviews are not removed from the US; many buy or borrow work authorization documents and get rehired by another employer. The GAO examined INS enforcement practices and priorities and concluded that "a sudden, widespread farm labor shortage requiring the entry of large numbers of foreign workers continues to be unlikely now or in the near future, although localized shortages could emerge for specific crops or geographic areas."

Labor Law. Most farmers who hire workers directly pay them at least the minimum wage, but many FLCs allegedly do not. In January-February 1998, there were federal-state inspections of pruning workers in 66 vineyards: 20 percent of the growers and 52 percent of the FLCs were not paying workers the minimum wage of $5.75 an hour, so that 369 of 1,000 workers involved in the inspections were owed "make-up" money so that they received at least the minimum wage. Four growers paid $7,024 in back wages to 13 workers and 12 growers paid fines or civil money penalties; 11 FLCs paid $9,242 in back wages to 228 workers and $46,080 in civil money penalties.
In 1999-2000, 45 of the vineyards in the Coachella, San Joaquin and Napa Valleys that had violations in 1997-98 were re-inspected during winter pruning season; most were in compliance. However, FLC Filadelfo L. Martinez of Fresno was found not to be paying the minimum wage for the fifth time since 1995.

There is an ongoing effort in the California Legislature to tighten the regulation of FLCs and to make the farms to which FLCs bring workers jointly liable for labor law violations. After 13 tomato sorters were killed in August 1999 when the van they were riding in struck a tomato truck making a U-turn, the Legislature enacted a law that requires vans used to transport farm workers to have forward-facing conventional seats by 2002, and added funds for the CHP to inspect such vans. However, a bill that would have made growers jointly liable for labor law violations with the FLCs who bring workers to their farms for all labor law violations committed by the FLC on their farm, whether the FLC was registered or not, was defeated.


© FVC National Centre 2001-2011