New York Times correspondent Miriam Jordan wrote "Black Farmworkers Say They Lost Jobs to Foreigners Who Were Paid More," about longtime field laborer Richard Strong and five other displaced black farmworkers in the Mississippi Delta filing a federal lawsuit against Pitts Farm Partnership (PFP) claiming "that the new foreign workers (mostly white South African farmers on H-2A visas) were illegally paid at higher rates than local Black workers," according to The New York Times.
The New York Times allowed comments for a time (the story ultimately closed with 241 comments) by subscribers, some of whom echoed the sentiments by Jordan that these workers are being mistreated but also voiced how they want the employers to be held accountable. Here are some of the comments that stood out from The Times' readership:
- "But the continuing farm labor shortages across the country pushed H-2A visas up to 213,394 in the 2020 fiscal year, from 55,384 in 2011."
"In states with significant unemployment, there's no shortage of labor, just wages being too low to make a living. In those states, there shouldn't be any H-2A visas issued. Secretary of Labor Walsh needs to put a stop to this and also conduct checks on discriminating wage differences, in cooperation with the Justice Department. Zero tolerance for racism in Mississippi!" - Gray Goods, Germany
- "Send your complaints to the Democrats, they're the ones pushing more immigration." - Decent Guy, Arizona
- "People are wondering why a farm owner would pay a guest worker so much more than they'll pay a local worker. One reason - taxes.
Owners don't have to pay Social Security taxes or Medicare taxes on H2A guest workers. This means the amount an owner spends for each worker can be pretty similar even though the amount each worker receives is very different. Not saying it's right to treat people this way, but this is what's happening on the financial side." - anae, NY
- "Why are immigrants needed when the article says that the unemployment in this area is extremely high? Looks as though there are plenty of people right there to do the work." - Peggy Conroy, West Chazy, NY
- "Whenever the market favors employers, workers get squeezed.
Whenever the market favors workers, employers...lobby authorities to facilitate guest workers!
Sorry, but the market in the US is most definitely NOT free..." - Jack, Houston, Texas
- "And sadly, the displaced workers will probably be disparaged for not working." - Walkman, LA County
- "Shame on Pitt Farms. You are a disgrace. You are breaking the law when you do not hire Americans, especially when you run an advertisement in the paper which is a requirement before you hire foreign workers. Pitt farms is an unethical business and you will pay the price at some point for your hiring practices. You never know when the next problem will arise and workers from foreign countries will not be able to travel and people like Pitt Farms have thrown those that stood by them for generations were given the boot. Greed will come knocking on your door ." - DPT, Kentucky
If you're interested in the requirements that DPT mentions, here's the Department of Labor's primer on H-2A Visa regulations, in part:
"Before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can approve an employer's petition for such workers, the employer must file an application with the Department stating that there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available, and that the employment of aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers... Any employer who has been certified for a specific number of H-2A jobs must have initially attempted to find U.S. workers to fill these slots. Even after H-2A workers are recruited employers must continue to engage in "positive recruitment" of U.S. workers."
There are plenty more comments from readers available to read here.
CHRIS JOHNSON is a content writer for the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Mon, Dec 6th 2021 @ 5:00pm EST