Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Cheap Labor Update

We have an update on Vanderbilt Landscaping (not affiliated with Vanderbilt University), which I wrote about last August, after it treated its Mexican guest workers like modern-day slaves. One had to actually escape with the help of an Atlanta human rights group.

The Dept. of Labor has fined the company for violating H-2B visa rules, and ordered back pay to 42 guest workers.
Horwitz called the nearly $40,000 in backpay and fines a big victory, but he also said the fight isn't over. In fact, just last week, Jimenez and 14 other former employees of Vanderbilt Landscaping filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville, alleging human trafficking, forced labor, and civil rights violations.

"Some of the elements of that lawsuit included workers' passports being held, workers being told they weren't allowed to leave the premises, and if they did leave, they were told their passports would be burned," said Horwitz.

According to the Department of Labor, the company has agreed to pay the $18,496 in backpage, but has filed an appeal in regards to the $18,000 penalty being imposed by the government.

Something not mentioned in this update is that the company had $2.4 million in state Transportation Department contracts, plus a $900,000 a stimulus loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

I would expect a company in violation of the law would lose its government contracts and be ineligible for benefits like Dept. of Agriculture loan guarantees. But the follow up story didn’t address that. For that matter, I don’t know why companies getting state and federal contracts are hiring cheap foreign labor, but I’ve already harangued about that enough.

America is truly a fucked up country right now.