Tuesday, September 07, 2010
New York Times editorial: Forced Labor
A snip from Wednesday’s New York Times editorial::
The company, Global Horizons Manpower, is accused of abusing the federal guest worker program, known as H-2A, in 2004 and 2005 and luring workers with false promises of steady work at decent pay. The workers, poor men from the Thai countryside, took on crushing debt to pay exorbitant recruiting fees, about $9,500 to $21,000. After they arrived in America, according to the indictment, their passports were taken and they were set up in shoddy housing and told that if they complained or fled they would be fired, arrested or deported.
The case, brought in Honolulu, coincides with the sentencing on Thursday of two Hawaii farmers, Mike and Alec Sou, who pleaded guilty in January to a forced-labor scheme involving 44 Thai workers. The Sous worked with Global Horizons before but are linked to the latest case only by the methods they admitted to using.
American history is full of examples of large-scale abuses of farmworkers, from the Bracero program for Mexicans in the 1940s to the present day. The Bush administration, which was in charge of the H-2A program at the time Global Horizons is accused of doing its worst, generally turned a blind eye to wage-and-hour enforcement. In its waning days, it issued new rules that gutted worker pay and labor protections in the program. [New York Times, Forced Labor, 9/8/2010]