TRLA Suing Area Farmers

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. July 10, 1987. p 4B

Texas Rural Legal Aid (TRLA) has filed a federal class action suit here against 17 area farmers and six farms for alleged violations of federal and state labor laws from 1984-86.

TRLA seeks thousands of dollars in unpaid wages and damages on behalf of three migrant farm workers. The suit names farmers in Gaines, Lynn and Terry counties as defendants.

TRLA charges that some of the 23 defendants already have vowed that the plaintiffs-Gregory R. Salinas, Gregory G. Salinas and Jesus Chavez- will not obtain anymore work in the Seagraves/Tahoka/Brownfield area.

TRLA Branch Manager Andy Morris explained that a judge would be asked to issue temporary restraining should the defendants interfere with the workers.

“It’s unfortunate that any farmer would even consider trying to stop a lawsuit by taking the bread out of a worker’s family’s mouths,” TRLA attorney Steve McIntyre stated in a prepared statement. He further claimed that TRLA had no choice but to go to court when the farmers refused to negotiate a settlement.

Two of the defendants contacted by The Avalanche-Journal- Ralph Spain and J.W. Hawkins, both of Terry County-admitted they had been involved in negotiations with McIntyre. Both denied knowing about the lawsuit.

“My understanding was, I was subpoenaed for a suit,” Hawkins said. “ I have not received anything that I am being sued.”

Spain said he met with McIntyre but refused to say what was discussed at the meeting.

Both defendants said they knew nothing about alleged threats to keep the plaintiffs from working in the region.

The defendants are accused of paying cotton hoers the “going rate” of $2.25 to $2.50 an hour instead of the $3.35 minimum wage. The farmers allegedly kept no records, breached their oral contracts and gave false and misleading information, the suit states.

The suit accuses the defendants of not complying with the state health regulations requiring employers to provide farmworkers with toilets, hand-washing facilities, cool drinking water and a shady place to eat.

Defendants listed in the suit by county, include: Gaines County-Bobby Harlan, Keith Addison, Lynn Addison, Evans and Clem, P&B Farms, Bobby Welch and Billy Jack Welch; Lynn County-Laverne Meeks Farms, and Meeks Farms Partnerships; Terry County-Gerald Goldston, Scott Hamm, J.W Hawkins, Doyle Moss, Grady Herron, Herbie Marchbanks, Earl Brown III, R.H. Clements, Kenneth Purtell, Roy A. Sexton, T&S Skains Farms, Ralph Spain, and E.H. Wood; and Brownfield-Goodpasture Inc. PST.