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July 2002, Volume 8, Number 3

Northeast: Eggs, New York, Fishing

DeCoster Egg Farms in June 2002 reached a $3.2 million settlement with the Mexican government and migrant workers who sued DeCoster in 1998 over alleged racial discrimination in housing and working conditions in a Turner, Maine farm; a 2000 settlement was for $6 million. Between 1,400 and 1,500 Hispanics who worked at DeCoster between 1998 and 2002 may be entitled to payments.


Ben Guiliani, executive director of the Maine Migrant Workers Advocate Group, said that DeCoster has improved housing and conditions, and that DeCoster could serve as a model for other farms.


The 6,000-acre Buckeye Egg farms with 16 million chickens producing 2.5 billion eggs annually in northwest Ohio was ordered to pay $20 million in 2001 for being a nuisance, generating flies, odor and polluted waterways. Owner Anton Pohlmann retired in 2002 and moved back to his native Germany.


New York/Pennsylvania. New York state in 2000 had 380 farm labor camps approved to provide housing for 7,314 workers; only camps housing five or more workers must be inspected. New York has 200 licensed labor contractors. In June 2002, six farm labor contractors operating migrant labor camps east of Buffalo were indicted on the unusual federal charge of forced labor, accused of virtually enslaving 40 Mexican workers and threatening them with physical harm if they tried to escape from the mobile homes in which they were housed before their $1,800 smuggling fee was repaid.


The migrants were transported from Arizona to western New York, and then forced to work to pay off their smuggling charges. Maria "Chavela" Garcia and two other family members were charged with operating forced labor camps in Albion and Kendall, illegally and unsafely transporting migrant workers from Arizona to Western New York and engaging in immigration status and Social Security fraud. The charges were brought under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, which increased penalties for forced labor and involuntary servitude.


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profiled the H-2A workers from Mexico employed on a 500-acre tree, shrub and plant farm of Lake Forest Gardens farm in Fombell, Beaver County. In FY01, five Pennsylvania farm employers were certified to have 84 H-2A workers; they must be paid at least $7.37 an hour.


Fishing. Fishing is a declining industry, as is evident in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In April 2002, a US District Court Judge issued a ruling that restricts the activities of the 600 fishermen in the city of 30,000, reducing the days they may fish from 88 a year to perhaps as few as 15 a year. In 2000, Gloucester fishermen landed 40 million pounds of fish, valued at $30 million.


In Maine, the U.S. Department of Labor offered $1 million under the Fishing Industry Retraining Project to aid 305 displaced fishermen with job search and placement, counseling, training and job development, and also may provide additional help with child care, transportation, job-related clothing, health care and other emergency payments.


The European Union has 100,000 fishing vessels, including 18,000 in Spain- Spanish fishing employs 62,000 people, and receives $555 million a year in EU subsidies (http://www.mapya.es/pesca/pags/triptico/triptico.htm)


Sandra Tan, "Labor Camp Indictments Stem From Risky Escape," Buffalo News, June 21, 2002. Ann S. Kim, "DeCoster reaches accord with Mexican government, migrants," AP, June 20, 2002. Jonathan D. Silver, "Mexican Workers Welcome The Chance To Better Their Lives While Giving A Beaver County Farm A New Lease On Life," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 12, 2002.


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