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Farmworkers housed in squalid conditions; employer facing stiff penalty

The U.S. Department of Labor fined a farm labor contractor more than $160,000 for housing workers in deplorable conditions.
The U.S. Department of Labor fined a farm labor contractor more than $160,000 for housing workers in deplorable conditions.

A Central Coast farm labor contractor will pay $168,082 in penalties for housing workers in “inhumane” conditions, U.S. Department of Labor officials said Thursday.

Investigators with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that Future Ag Management Inc. of Soledad was providing housing for 22 workers with only one shower and sink, a restroom that was infested with insects, and living conditions that were overcrowded.

Health officials also determined that the water the workers were using was unsafe for human consumption.

“The living conditions we found in this investigation can only be described as inhumane,” said Susana Blanco, Wage and Hour Division District Director in San Francisco.

Outdoor Fridge
This outdoor refrigerator that had to shared by 22 farmworkers in Monterey County, according to Department of Labor officials. U.S. Department of Labor

“The Department of Labor remains committed to ensuring the wages and welfare of agricultural workers through our enforcement efforts, and through our ongoing educational efforts for employers in this industry.”

After DOL officials discovered the squalid conditions, the workers were placed in hotels until adequate housing could be secured. The workers were hired to harvest lettuce and cauliflower in Monterey County during the summer of 2017.

Future Ag Management could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Last year, federal officials also came down hard on an Arizona grower, G Farms, that hired workers through the H-2A temporary agricultural program. The farmer housed the workers in converted school buses and semitruck trailers with beds stacked end to end and with inadequate ventilation, according to the Arizona Republic.

Farm labor contractors are not required to provide housing or transportation, but if they do they must meet specific requirements under the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob

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