Six Black farmworkers have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that white South Africa workers were “illegally paid at higher rates than local Black workers,” including workers the farmers trained themselves, according to The New York Times.
The Times highlighted one of the plaintiffs, farmworker Richard Strong. Per the outlet:
“dozens of young, white workers flew in from South Africa on special guest worker visas. Mr. Strong and his co-workers trained the men, who by last year were being lured across the globe with wages of more than $11 an hour, compared with the $7.25 an hour that Mr. Strong and other Black local workers were paid.”
While growers have brought in more white South Africans over the past decade or so, “several other longtime workers said they were told their services were no longer needed,” the New York Times reported. The rate at which they’ve been hired between 2011 and 2020 soared 441 percent, making them the second-largest ethnic group to receive H-2A visas in America, the outlet noted.
Under the H-2A program, growers can hire foreign workers for up to 10 months and “must also show that they have tried, and failed, to find Americans to perform the work and they must pay domestic workers the same rate they are paying the imported laborers.”
A co-owner of Pitts Farm Partnership, which was named as the defendant in the lawsuit, declined to discuss their hiring methods with The New York Times, reportedly because of the pending litigation.
The lawsuit comes at a time Black farmers throughout the country have been seeking redress for historical discrimination from the federal government. Despite farmers of color being granted funds under the American Rescue Plan, white American farmers were later granted an injunction blocking the aid after claiming it was discriminatory.