Six Black farm workers in Mississippi have filed a lawsuit against their employer over pay inequality. The workers claim that the Pitts Farm Partnership brought in white workers from South Africa and paid them more.
According to Black Enterprise, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Southern Migrant Legal Services filed the lawsuit on behalf of the six Black workers last week. The suit alleges Pitts Farm violated the federal H-2A visa program, which prohibits unequal treatment of workers from the US and workers from other countries, by paying the white foreign workers more.
The Black employees say in 2014, they received $7.25 an hour and $8.25 for weekend work, but after Pitts Farm hired a job replacement firm, the workers claim the effort to hire US workers wasn’t the same. The white employees brought in from other countries were paid $9.87 an hour in 2014 and that rate increased yearly until it hit $11.83 an hour.
Amal Bouhabib, an attorney for the Southern Migrant Legal Services clarified the visa program allows farms to hire foreign workers when workers in the US aren’t available.
“It does not allow farmers to pay their American workforce less than the foreign workers, or to replace willing and able US workers,” Bouhabib told CBS News.
Ty Pinkins, a member of the Mississippi Center for Justice, said in a news release that given the high unemployment rate in the Mississippi Delta, what the Pitts Farm did was “unacceptable.”
“Unfortunately, this case is emblematic of a disastrous pattern in the South. Our research indicates that farm owners are increasingly abusing the H-2A program and denying opportunities to US workers,” Pinkins said.
“The case also reflects our nation’s deep, ugly history of exploiting Black labor. For too long, powerful businesses have abused Black Americans for profit.”
The suit goes on to say that the farm hired a white supervisor who used the N-word and that the farm did nothing about it after learning of the incidents.