The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Temporary Migrant Farm Workers Super-Exploited

May 23, 2022

Three men in southern Georgia were sentenced to federal prison for practically enslaving hundreds of farm workers in 2018 and 2019. Mostly from Mexico, the workers had special H-2A visas to tend and harvest onions and various fruits on U.S. farms for a few months. But the three traffickers held the workers in near bondage, confiscated their passports, paid them less than promised and less than legally required, kept them in cramped rooms—some without air conditioning or fridges—and worse. Two workers died from this treatment.

This kind of horrendous abuse on U.S. farms has spread like prairie fire over the last 15 years. More farmers are choosing to use the H-2A visa program for seasonal farm and ranch workers. They now are one in every 10 crop farm workers, three times as many as in 2006. And around one third are brought in by barely-regulated labor recruiters who file the paperwork for the farmers. Last winter investigators accused two dozen labor traffickers of stealing over 200 million dollars from more than 71,000 H-2A workers over six years. That’s a drop in the bucket!

The legal system in this country has always supported exceptionally harsh exploitation on farms, dating back to the days of slavery. New Deal overtime regulations don’t cover farm workers. The government adopted programs to bring in seasonal farm workers from Mexico and other countries during World Wars I and II to replace farm workers sent to fight overseas. To replace, also, black people who left the rural South to seek northern industrial jobs.

It is easy and profitable for labor contractors and commercial farmers to brutally exploit farm workers. The H-2A visa is very restrictive, remaining valid only so long as the worker works for the same boss. Once fired or laid off, workers become deportees.