Farms settle suits on using immigrants over Black US workers

Jan 6, 2023, 3:57 PM | Updated: 4:06 pm
FILE - Richard Strong, left, his brother Gregory Strong, center, and Stacy Griffin pose for a photo...

FILE - Richard Strong, left, his brother Gregory Strong, center, and Stacy Griffin pose for a photo on Sept. 9, 2021, in Indianola, Miss. They are among Black farmworkers in Mississippi who said in a lawsuit that their former employer, Pitts Farm Partnership, brought white laborers from South Africa to do the same jobs they were doing, and that the farm violated U.S. law by paying the white immigrants significantly more for the same type of work. The lawsuit and a similar one filed by other Black workers against a catfish farm in the Mississippi Delta were settled in December 2022. Terms of the settlements are private, but an attorney said the Black farmworkers will be compensated for the discrimination they suffered. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two agriculture businesses in the Mississippi Delta and some Black farm workers have settled the workers’ lawsuits over claims the farms hired white laborers from South Africa and paid them more than the local Black employees for the same type of work.

Federal court records show the two lawsuits were settled in December, with terms of the settlements remaining private.

“This particular form of discrimination is a recent manifestation of the age-old problem of exploitation of Black labor in America and particularly in the Delta,” Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice, one of the workers’ attorneys, said in a news release Thursday. “These settlements are an important step and we are going to keep moving forward in an effort to eradicate these abuses throughout the Delta.”

Southern Migrant Legal Services and the Mississippi Center for Justice filed one of the lawsuits in September 2021 on behalf of six workers against Pitts Farms Partnership, which grows cotton, soybean and corn. Two more plaintiffs joined the suit in November 2021.

The groups filed the other lawsuit in April on behalf of five workers against a catfish grower, Harris Russell Farms.

Both farms are in Sunflower County, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Jackson.

Court records show U.S. District Judge Debra M. Brown filed the settlement order in the Harris Russell Farms case on Dec. 6, and U.S. Magistrate Judge David A. Sanders signed the settlement order in the Pitts Farms case on Dec. 22.

Amal Bouhabib, a Southern Migrant Legal Services attorney who also represented the workers, said the plaintiffs will be compensated “for the discrimination they suffered at these two farms.”

“But many other Delta farms are engaging in these unlawful practices and more suits will be coming against those who do not pay fair wages to the local workers,” Bouhabib said.

Tim Threadgill, an attorney for Pitts Farms, said Friday that the business “is glad to have reached a mutual settlement with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the farm.

“Pitts Farms denied liability, but litigation is expensive and the farm believed it was in everyone’s best interest to settle if the parties could reach mutually agreeable terms, which they did,” Threadgill said.

Robert Warrington, an attorney representing Harris Russell Farms, said Friday that he could not comment on the settlement.

The lawsuit against Pitts Farms said the business started bringing in white workers from South Africa in 2014, using a placement firm to hire seasonal labor, and that from 2014 to 2020, the farm did not make the same effort to recruit U.S. workers as it did for immigrant workers.

The H-2A program allows U.S. farmers to hire foreign workers when no U.S. workers are available, but it does not allow farmers to pay American workers less than the foreign workers, Bouhabib said.

Southern Migrant Legal Services and the Mississippi Center for Justice also contacted the U.S. Labor Department, which investigated allegations of wage theft and displacement of U.S. workers. In November, the department announced it had recovered $134,532 in unpaid wages for 54 workers at 11 farms in the Mississippi Delta and set fines of $122,610 against those farms.

Mississippi Center for Justice president and CEO Vangela Wade said the lawsuits and the Labor Department’s enforcement “worked in tandem to improve the lives of many of these local farm workers.”

“We look forward to continuing this campaign in the Delta and bringing some measure of justice to the workers who have been underpaid and mistreated for many years,” Wade said.

Mississippi is a largely rural state with poultry, soybeans, timber, cotton and corn as its top agricultural products.

In August 2019, U.S. immigration agents raided seven chicken processing plants in Mississippi and arrested 680 mostly Latino workers in the largest such operation in at least a decade. Two years after the raid, Mississippi Center for Justice said about 230 people had been deported because of previous immigration orders or other causes, and about 400 were awaiting hearings.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - In this photo published on June 28, 2022 by the North Korean government, North Korean employ...
Associated Press

Russian embassy says North Korea lifted lockdown in capital

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Russia’s embassy in North Korea says the country has eased stringent epidemic controls in capital Pyongyang that were placed during the past five days to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses. North Korea has not officially acknowledged a lockdown in Pyongyang or a re-emergence of COVID-19 after leader Kim Jong […]
22 hours ago
People walk past an electronic stock board at Taipei Exchange in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, Jan. 30, 2...
Associated Press

Asian shares mixed after last week’s gains on Wall Street

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were trading mixed in Asia on Monday after Wall Street benchmarks closed higher on Friday, capping a third week of gains out of the last four. Tokyo was nearly unchanged, Mumbai and Shanghai rose while Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney fell. Attention is turning to Wednesday’s decision by the Federal Reserve […]
22 hours ago
A worker inspects solar panels at Premier Energies Solar on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, Wedn...
Associated Press

Taxes slow India’s solar power rollout but boost manufacture

BENGALURU, India (AP) — In May last year Fortum India, a subsidiary of a Finnish solar developer, won the bid for a solar power project in the state of Gujarat. The project was due to be completed three months ago and would have generated enough electricity for 200,000 homes. But like many other solar power […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

3 kids taken in Nebraska carjacking found with frostbite

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — Three young children were being treated for frostbite in Nebraska Sunday after police said two suspects stole an SUV while they were inside. Around 3 a.m. Sunday, when temperatures were around 0 degrees, a man reported that his 2012 Chevrolet Traverse had been stolen with his three children inside, said […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Netherland's Prime Minister Mark Rutte, left, speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden during a ...
Associated Press

Source: Dutch, Japanese join US limits on chip tech to China

WASHINGTON (AP) — Japan and the Netherlands have agreed to a deal with the U.S. to restrict China’s access to materials used to make advanced computer chips, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press on Sunday. The person declined to be identified because the deal hasn’t yet been formally announced. It’s unclear […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Missouri mom convicted of killing her infant twins

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri mother who reported that her infant twins were stillborn has been convicted of manslaughter. Maya Caston, 28, was convicted Friday of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and two counts of child endangerment. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that jury found her guilty of lesser charges instead of convicting her of second-degree […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Farms settle suits on using immigrants over Black US workers