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Share a Confidential Concern

concerns about housing, wage violations, health and safety, or other

Report Enforcement Issues

problems related to your experience filing a complaint or reporting a concern

Report Access Issues

Violations of farmworkers’ right to receive visitors

Harvest of Dignity Campaign Headquarters

Join the movement to honor North Carolina's field and poultry workers.

Our state is long overdue for reform for field and poultry workers. It’s time for better working and living conditions for the people who put food on our tables.

The Harvest of Dignity is working for:

- Safe Places to Live
- Safe Places to Work
- Strong Enforcement of Our Existing Laws

Here at our campaign HQ, you'll find the latest updates on the campaign, along with many different ways to get involved.  We need your help to make a difference!

 

Monday
Dec122011

All I Want for Christmas

This holiday season, send your wish for farmworker justice to North Carolina's Commissioner of Labor.

North Carolina Christmas trees generate $100 million for our state each year. But the people who do the hardest work are in danger. This holiday season, the Farmworker Advocacy Network is asking the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) to step up its efforts to protect all NC farmworkers.

Check out the links below to learn more about the dangerous and dehumanizing conditions that farmworkers face on a daily basis:

- Behind the Scenes in Santa Land
- From the Ground Up: Focus on Christmas Trees
- Farmworker Living & Working Conditions 

You can help make a difference by printing and signing our postcard (right) and mailing it to:

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry
1101 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1101

You can also call in your wish to the Commissioner's office: 1-800-NC-LABOR.

Federal and state audits, as well as independent research, have recently revealed the following serious problems in NCDOL’s enforcement practices:

1) NCDOL is inconsistent in the way it issues penalties. 
2) NCDOL does not classify violations correctly, resulting in incorrect penalties.
3) NCDOL routinely reduces and/or negotiates fines downwards.
4) NCDOL does not focus its inspections on the worst migrant camps. 

Click here for more detailed reports on the NC Deparment of Labor.

(Robyn Levine, USA, 2011) SAF Fellow Robyn Levine documents the experiences of a group of migrant farmworkers who live together and work in the Christmas tree fields in Boone, North Carolina.

Tuesday
Oct182011

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Celebrations

Tuesday, November 1
6:00pm - 9:00pm

Dos Taquitos Centro
106 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601 

Please join us to honor and celebrate the lives of farmworkers and farmworker children who have died while working in the fields.

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday and celebration that takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints day and All Souls’ Day.

Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.

Info, RSVP, comment on Facebook here.


If you cannot make it to the party in Raleigh, we'd like to invite you to host your own Día de los Muertos celebration at your home, church, or community center. Please let us know if you're hosting a party and we'll help make sure you have everything you need to make it a success.

Here's a packet with ideas for how to make this work:

Host a Day of the Dead Celebration
North Carolina Farmworker Obituaries 

Wednesday
Oct122011

NC Dept. of Labor Neglects to Enforce Laws that Protect Farmworker Health and Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 12, 2011

Contacts:

Mary Lee Hall, Managing Attorney, Farmworker Unit, Legal Aid of NC
919-856-2180 | maryleeh@legalaidnc.org

Bart Evans, Coordinator, Farmworker Advocacy Network
919-660-0704 | bdevans@duke.edu  

Raleigh, NC – Legal Aid of North Carolina's Farmworker Unit has filed a CASPA (Complaint Against State Program Administration) with the US Department of Labor (USDOL) due to the fact that the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) is failing to ensure safe working and housing conditions for farmworkers in North Carolina. The Agricultural Safety and Health Bureau of the NCDOL is responsible for inspecting farmworker housing prior to occupancy, investigating complaints when housing is substandard, and following up on any OSHA violations which include field sanitation and health and safety in agriculture. NCDOL is also responsible for inspecting poultry industry worksites.

Farmworker advocates report that NC Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry has repeatedly ignored concerns raised by them over the years about substandard migrant farmworker housing and working conditions. Many migrant housing units are overcrowded, in disrepair and have unsanitary cooking and washing facilities. Fields where farmworkers risk exposure to pesticides and extreme temperatures harvesting crops may lack bathrooms and safe water for drinking and hand washing. “Since the farmers aren’t getting any complaints,” says a 19-year old Triangle-area farmworker, “they’re going to keep on going and working like they regularly do, without any water, port-o-john, drinking water, [or even] water to wash your hands."

Despite numerous housing and field safety violations, federal and state audits, as well as independent research, have determined that NCDOL simply fails to enforce the law. For example, NCDOL is cited for being inconsistent in the way it issues penalties, classifies violations incorrectly, and routinely reduces and/or negotiates fines downwards, even in cases where NCDOL found a high probability of serious injury. NCDOL’s own internal audit determined that it does not always follow the proper procedure for classifying violations and calculating penalties. Even when employers were aware of the violation and took no action, the violations were still not classified as “willful,” which means that the employer knew the law and violated it anyway.

Rob Segovia-Welsh, former NCDOL inspector reports that, “For over four years I conducted and accompanied co-inspectors on compliance inspections for NCDOL and I can say that 99.9% of the monetary penalties attached to health/safety violations are dramatically reduced by both the mandatory set penalty calculator devised by USDOL and by outright bargaining with the employer.”   

Many agricultural employers abide by the law. But in 2009, only 55 migrant camps were inspected after workers arrived, when violations are more likely to be evident, out of more than 1200 registered camps and over 4000 total migrant camps in North Carolina in any given season. NCDOL is failing farmworkers and their children as well as honest employers who work hard to provide legal, safe working conditions. Poor migrant housing and working conditions can lead to acute and long-term illnesses and are an affront to human dignity.

For more information on the CASPA complaint contact Mary Lee Hall, Managing Attorney of the Farmworker Unit of Legal Aid of NC, at 919-856-2180 or maryleeh@legalaidnc.org. For information on research surrounding farmworker living and working conditions in North Carolina, please see below or contact Bart Evans at 919-660-0704 or bdevans@duke.edu. 

###

Background & Facts

Download this fact sheet.

Nearly all of North Carolina’s more than 58,000 migrant farmworkers live in housing that is provided by the grower or crewleader. The Agricultural Safety and Health Bureau of the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), which is headed by Commissioner Cherie Berry, is responsible for inspecting migrant housing prior to occupancy, and for investigating complaints when the housing is substandard. Federal and state audits, as well as independent research, reveal the following serious problems in NCDOL’s enforcement practices.

1) NCDOL is inconsistent in the way it issues penalties. 

  • The amount NCDOL fines someone for a migrant housing violation can vary significantly for the same violation. For example, according to NCDOL’s recent internal audit, unadjusted penalties for failing to register a migrant camp ranged from $100 to $5,000.

2) NCDOL does not classify violations correctly, resulting in incorrect penalties.

  • NCDOL was criticized by the US Department of Labor in 2009 for using guidelines that are weaker than federal guidelines, resulting in lower penalties. NCDOL rarely, if ever, classifies a violation as willful, (meaning the employer knew the law and violated it anyway), doing so only once in 2009. USDOL was 62 times more likely to cite an employer for a willful violation than was NCDOL, and more than twice as likely to classify a violation as serious.
  • A review of NCDOL’s migrant housing inspections between 2006 and 2009 by the Farmworker Advocacy Network reveals that some serious violations did not result in a penalty, even at the initial citation stage. Even when employers were aware of the violation and took no action, the violations were still not classified as willful.
  • The NCDOL’s internal audit determined that they do not always follow the proper procedure for classifying violations and calculating penalties. 

3) NCDOL routinely reduces and/or negotiates fines downwards.

  • In every migrant housing inspection reviewed by FAN during a three-year period, fines were reduced, even in cases where NCDOL found a high probability of serious injury.
  • NCDOL frequently reduces penalties for housing and field sanitation violations if the employer requests an informal conference, but there are no guidelines calling for a reduction at this stage.
  • A recent USDOL investigation found that NCDOL’s policies for calculating and reducing penalties resulted in inappropriately low fines for serious violations—on average only $512. NCDOL refused to change its policies in response to this investigation.

4) NCDOL does not focus its inspections on the worst migrant camps.

  • In 2009, only 55 migrant camps were inspected after workers arrived, out of more than 1200 registered camps and over 4000 total migrant camps in North Carolina in any given season. There are only 7 inspectors for the entire state. According to recent research conducted by Wake Forest University, camps are more likely to have violations mid to late season after workers are living in the housing, rather than before they arrive.
  • NCDOL acknowledges that it "has not met its follow-up inspection goals." Only 0.8% of inspections in 2009 were follow-up inspections to check on situations where problems were found in the past. Housing problems can persist and even worsen for years because of lack of follow-up.
  • H2A camps are more likely to be inspected than non-H2A, even though housing violations are more common in non-H2A camps. 

Recommendations from recent reports/research:

  • Set up stricter requirements for penalty reductions.
  • Change the current policies on how citations are grouped and fined as a single violation, so that serious violations are appropriately identified and addressed.
  • Use the correct criteria for issuing willful violations and issue appropriate penalties when such violations are found.
  • Issue serious violation citations in all instances where health and safety hazards are documented in the investigation.
  • Review the effectiveness of NCDOL-initiated investigations in detecting high hazard establishments.
  • Target repeat violators for follow up investigations and issue higher penalties to repeat violators.
  • Increase the number of housing inspectors.
  • Increase the number of post-occupancy inspections conducted.
  • Expand efforts to identify and inspect unregistered camps.
  • Target a portion of post-occupancy inspections to camps with no H2A workers and camps with more than 10 residents.
  • End the practice of reducing fines at the informal conference stage, and strictly adhere to deadlines for requesting an informal conference.

Background Information

  • Housing for migrant farmworkers is often overcrowded and unsanitary. Many migrant housing units have inadequate laundry, kitchen, and bathroom facilities.
  • A 2004 Study of NC Farmworker Family Housing found that 40% of the farmworkers surveyed lived in overcrowded housing and most (63-84%) did not have washing machines or dryers.
  • Most farmworkers live in labor camps in isolated, rural areas that lack telephones and their own transportation, making it difficult to get assistance in the event of an emergency.
  • Many farmworker housing units lack locks on doors or windows, making them susceptible to break-ins and robberies.
  • Poor migrant housing conditions lead to increased rates of lead poisoning, respiratory illnesses, ear infections, parasitic infections, and prolonged pesticide exposure.
  • All H-2A camps are inspected annually by the NC DOL before they are occupied, whereas less than half of other farmworker housing is inspected at all. Scarce resources of the NCDOL are currently not focused on the housing most likely to have problems
  • Uninspected camps, along with those that are repeat violators, have some of the most dangerous conditions.  

Sources Include: (1) Arcury, et al., Housing Conditions in Temporary Labor Camps for Migrant Farmworkers in North Carolina, Policy Brief, Center for Worker Health, Wake Forest University School of Medicine. (2) Employment Security Commission (3) Ellen Phelps, North Carolina Migrant Housing and Safety Standards: An Empirical Assessment of Compliance and Enforcement Statistics, 2006. (4) NC Department of Labor – Agricultural Safety and Health Bureau, Annual Report to the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources, 2009. (5) NCDOL Internal Assessment Report, March 26, 2009. (6) US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Enhanced Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation (FAME) Report of the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Program, October 1, 2008 – September 30, 2009. (7) September 17, 2010 Letter from Allen McNeely to US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Tuesday
Jun072011

MEDIA RELEASE: Time running out to protect NC kids from child labor

Today’s committee meeting was the last scheduled chance for a bill protecting child farmworkers from dangerous work to be heard. Why won’t the NC Farm Bureau and Department of Labor support an up-or-down vote?

RALEIGH (June 7, 2011) – Today’s House Agriculture Committee meeting may have marked North Carolina’s last chance this legislative session to protect kids by ending the practice of child labor on North Carolina farms. 

But pressure from the NC Farm Bureau and Department of Labor prevented this common-sense legislation from reaching the floor for an up-or-down vote. Advocates say this is unfair to young farmworkers, who are already exempted from most basic health and safety regulations present in other industries. 

Meanwhile, as school lets out, thousands of North Carolina children are preparing for a long, hot summer tending crops in 90-plus degree conditions. 

“Child farmworkers deserve the same legal protections that child workers in every other industry have,” said Emily Drakage, executive director of the NC FIELD Coalition. “Young people want to work to help their families, and they deserve to do so with the same protections on farms that they would get working at McDonalds or at the mall.”

While children make up only a tiny fraction of the agricultural work force, they account for 20 percent of all deaths on the job in agriculture. 

As an industry, Agriculture is exempt from most child labor laws. Under current law, children are allowed to work as paid employees at agricultural operations beginning at age 10.  

The bill, HB 838, would remove the exemption for agriculture from child labor laws, in order to provide the same protections for children who work in agriculture as in all other industries. It would also preserve the exemption for children who work on their own family’s farm.

Despite extended negotiations with children’s advocates, farm interests and legislative leaders, entrenched powers seem intent on preventing the bill from coming to a vote before the legislative session’s crossover deadline. Negotiations broke down after the Farm Bureau took issue with protecting 13-year-olds.

Barring some special circumstance, today’s 1 p.m. meeting of the House Agriculture Committee was the last scheduled meeting where the bill to protect child farmworkers could be heard before the June 9 crossover deadline. 

“The Farm Bureau and Department of Labor need to let this bill move forward,” said Fawn Pattison, director of Toxic Free NC. “Kids in North Carolina should be able to stay in school without being subject to dangerous or exploitive working conditions – and we deserve an up-or-down vote on this bill so any lawmaker who supports dangerous child labor can be held accountable.”

Though the last scheduled committee meeting has passed, advocates for the bill hold out hope the bill will be heard, either during a special meeting or if the crossover deadline is extended. Harry Payne, Senior Counsel for Policy & Law with the NC Justice Center, said that there is still ample time for committee members to discuss this bill.

“In this session, we have seen 90-page bill with enormous consequences passed in less than five minutes. Surely we can find time to hear a bill that protects children from workplace dangers,” said Payne.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Fawn Pattison, executive director, Toxic Free NC, 919.833.5333, fawn@toxicfreenc.org; Emily Drakage, executive director of the NC FIELD Coalition, 919.749.3629; Jeff Shaw, director of communications, NC Justice Center, 503.551.3615, jeff@ncjustice.org.

Wednesday
Jun012011

End Child Labor. Make the Call.

A young blueberry picker in North Carolina in 2009. Source: Association of Farmworker Opportunity ProgramsWorking on the family farm has long been an important tradition in North Carolina, but the agricultural workplace has changed a lot since our child labor laws were written in the early 1900’s. Children shouldn’t have to risk their lives or their health for a summer job growing our food. Take action today to update our child labor laws for the 21st century!

Today, 20% of all farm deaths are children, even though children make up only about 8% of the agricultural work force. One reason for this terrible statistic: Children as young as 10 years old may be hired legally to work on a farm – the limit is 14 years old in all other occupations, even though farm work is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Pesticides, heat stress, heavy machinery, and safety equipment designed for adults are all among the factors that make farm work too dangerous for young children.

H 838, Protect Youth/Family Farm Employment:  Representative Jordan (R-Ashe, Watauga) has filed a bill to update North Carolina’s child labor laws so that agriculture is treated the same as all other industries, allowing children to begin working limited hours at age 14, and protecting them from working hazardous tasks until age 18. The bill would exempt children working on their own family’s farm.

Take Action - Rep. Jordan needs to hear from you!

Contact Rep. Jordan today and remind him that we support his effort to help end child labor. Farming has changed dramatically since our child labor laws were written nearly 100 years ago. It’s time to update our child labor laws to reflect reality. Youth deserve the opportunity to work, and they should do so in a safe environment protected under the same laws, whether they work serving our food, or helping to grow it.

The clock is running down on this legislative session, and the child labor bill deserves a hearing before it's too late.

Representative Jordan (R-Ashe, Watauga)
Office: 418C Legislative Office Building
Phone: 919-733-7727
Email: Jonathan.Jordan@ncleg.net