Agricultural workers still denied millions in wages each year

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.   

This article is republished from The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Read the original article here.

Unpaid back wages increased from $4.2 million to $6 million in 2019 than in 2018, a 44 percent increase, according to the data.  

Pramod Acharya

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.

Pramod Acharya is an investigative journalist, data reporter, and multimedia content producer. As a Research Assistant at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he produced data-driven and investigative news reports for Journalism Department newsroom CU-CitizenAccess. He previously worked as the Assistant Editor at the Center for Investigative Journalism Nepal, and was a Dart fellow at Columbia University and Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN).