Firm on CIS 'Taking Names' List Zapped Again for Labor Practices

By David North on April 22, 2011

Global Horizons, a Beverly Hills-based farm labor contractor, listed in a recent CIS publication, "Taking Names", as one of the few misbehaving employers of aliens to be penalized by the government, is now in trouble with a different government agency.

This time it is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and this time the charge is that it discriminated against the 200 or so Thai nonimmigrant farm workers, brought to this country through the temporary farm worker (H-2A) program.

The EEOC press release of April 21 said that "the Thai workers were forced to live in dilapidated housing infested with rats and insects, with dozens sleeping in the same room, many with no beds . . . On the job they endured screaming, threats and physical assaults on the part of supervisors and were isolated from non-Thai workers who appeared to be working under more tolerable conditions . . ."

Four comments appear to be in order:

1. While the action of the EEOC, a small, hard-pressed federal agency, is welcome, it is not exactly prompt. It came after the Labor Department had already penalized the agency, probably as early as 2006, with the EEOC press release saying that the violations happened "between 2003 and 2007."

2. I know from my work with the Department of Interior some years ago that repaying back wages and other moneys to now-departed abused foreign workers can be a major problem, as they live in Third World countries where records on the poor are often scarce and inaccurate. When the U. S. Department of Labor had to search for mistreated workers in the Philippines who had once worked in the Saipan garment factories, so that it could pay back-wages, it billed the employers for the costs incurred. Let's hope that EEOC has similar powers.

3. If an employer seriously violates one labor law, my sense is that the firm is highly likely to be in violation of at least some other labor laws, environmental rules, and/or tax regulations, so the fact that both DoL and EEOC found extensive violations by Global Horizons comes as no surprise.

4. If I were engaged in something as grubby as farm labor contracting, I would probably see to it that my office was located in some obscure small farm town, and not in Beverly Hills.

EEOC, incidentally, called the action "its largest human trafficking case in agriculture to date." The Thai workers were employed on six farms in Hawaii and two in the State of Washington.