Migrant Workers Sue Businessman

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. November 15, 1985

Two Harlingen migrant workers have filed suit in Lubbock federal court on behalf of their family and 200 laborers against an O’Donnell businessman they claim violated health and minimum wage laws during the cotton harvest season.

Ramon and Aurora Gutierrez filed a civil suit Thursday through the Texas Rural Legal Aid against J.T. Forbes, former president of O’Donnell State Bank, alleging that the cotton agribussinessman paid them only $2 an hour to hoe cotton in the Lynn County area.

The coupe cited Forbes as being in violation of the Federal Labor Standards Act, which has set the minimum wage for all workers across the country at $3.35 an hour. They also claim that Forbes paid them in cash and did not make any arrangements for Social Security payments.

The suit claims that the family is entitled to such benefits because they are Mexican-American citizens of this country.

In addition, the couple said that Forbes did not provide adequate restroom facilities, running water and other work area facilities as required by the Texas Department of Health.

The family is seeking full reimbursement that would bring their pay up to minimum wage levels. In addition, they are seeking liquidated damages, court costs and attorney’s fees.

Although the Gutierrez family is the only current plaintiff in the suit, the family said that they would try and find other workers from the 200 employed who also allegedly had their rights violated.

Stephen C. McIntyre of the TRLA is representing the Rio Grande Valley family.