Slavery in our Backyard

Two farms in Eastern Washington are being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for discriminating against Thai workers. According to the EEOC, California-based company, Global Horizons, Inc., recruited Thai males to work at farms in the U.S.

Over a four year period (2003-2007), Global Horizons lured over 200 Thai workers to the U.S. with promised of high-paying agricultural jobs and temporary visas. Global Horizons charged exorbitant recruiting costs that often put the workers’ families in debt. The workers were willing to pay these costs because they were promised that they would make enough money to pay the debts and to support their families. Upon arrival to the U.S., however, the suit states that Global Horizons confiscated the workers’ passports and threatened to deport them if they complained about their conditions. The workers were sent to farms in Washington and Hawaii. According to the suit, Green Acre Farms (Harrah, WA) and Valley Fruit Orchards (Wapato, WA), not only ignored abusive treatment of these Thai workers but participated in mistreatment, intimidation, and harassment of the Thai men. In addition, they paid the workers lower wages than other agricultural workers.

According to the suit, Thai workers in some of the farms in Washington and Hawaii were forced to live in dilapidated housing that was infested with rats and insects. Dozens of men slept in the same rooms and many had no beds. They were separated from other non-Thai workers and were forbidden to leave the premises. While on the job, they endured screaming, threats, and physical violence from supervisors. They had no recourse because they were bound by debt, they didn’t have passports, they didn’t speak the language, and they were under the threat of physical violence.

Labor trafficking is the new form of human slavery. And it’s happening in our backyard.

See Press Release by EEOC.

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