American Workers in Georgia Sue Farmers for Hiring Foreign Workers over Unemployed U.S. Workers

Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 9:24 AM EDT

A group of Americans, mostly Black Americans, in Georgia are suing several farm employers because they say the farmers prefer cheaper, foreign labor over U.S. workers. The workers claim that farmers, including Stanley Farms - one of the largest growers of Vidalia onions, that they were mistreated and paid less than workers from Mexico.

"They like the Mexicans because they are scared and will do anything they tell them to," Sherry Tomason, who worked for seven years in the fields here, then quit, told the New York Times.

According to the Times article, the local unemployment rate is 10%, and farmers that use the H-2A Agriculture guest-worker program have to pay high fees, complete lots of paperwork, and provide housing. It would be easier for farmers to hire local workers, but they chose the foreign workers instead. The American workers who are suing acknowledge that foreign workers are willing to work longer hours for less money and harsher conditions, but say they are abusing the foreign workers.

"We are not going to run all the time," said Henry Rhymes, who was fired -- unfairly, he says -- from Southern Valley after a week on the job.

"I am not arguing that agricultural work is a good job," said Dawson Morton, a lawyer who focuses on farm workers' rights at the Georgia Legal Services Program, a nonprofit law firm. "I am arguing that it could be a better job. If you want experienced people, train them. Just because people are easier to supervise, agricultural employers shouldn't be able to import them. It is not true that Americans don't want the work. What the farmers are really saying is that blacks just don't want to work."

For more information, see the New York Times.