Unpaid back wages in this “low wage, high violation industry” increased nearly 50 percent between 2018 and 2019, and amount to $65 million over the past two decades.
Tens of thousands of agricultural workers have been denied wages by their employers—a violation of labor laws—over the past two decades, according to Department of Labor data. The data shows that the employers didn’t pay a total of $65 million in wages to their 150,000 employees between 2001 and 2019.
Unpaid back wages increased from $4.2 million to $6 million in 2019 than in 2018, a 44 percent increase, according to the data.
Agriculture is one of fifteen industries the DOL considers “low wage, high violation industries.”
Many in agriculture are white, but, in general, Hispanics and immigrants of color work tougher agricultural jobs, such as harvesting fields and slaughtering animals. About 27 percent of the industry is Hispanic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employers who willfully or repeatedly violate the Fair Labor Standards Act, which covers denying back wages, can be fined up to $1,000 for each violation.