Farm Worker Union Files Second Class Action Against Brownfield Area Farmers

West Texas Hispanic News. June 29, 1988

On August 26, 1987 a class action administrative complaint was filed with the Texas Department of Health by the International Union of Agricultural Workers (IUAW) on behalf of farm workers who work in Terry and surrounding counties.

The complaint alleged that farmers in those counties routinely violated the field sanitation standards promulgated by the Texas Department of Health and United States Department of Labor during the summer of 1987 by failing to provide adequate water, toilets, hand washing facilities, and shady place to eat lunch.

The IUAW requested that TDH seek an injunction against every farmer and crew leader in the area to force compliance with the law and fine every farmer and crew leader $200 for each day they were determined to be in violation of the law. On June 23, 1988 a similar class action administrative complaint was filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleging violation of the federal field sanitation regulations in 1987 and 1988. The complaint requests that Brownfield attorney, Bradford Moore be subpoenaed to identify those farmers in the area who are not in compliance with the federal law and that all of those farmers be assessed a civil penalty of $10,000 for each day they were in violation of the law in 1987 and 1988.

“It is illegal to force the men, women and children who work in our fields to toil under primitive conditions. OSHA has estimated it would cost about $.89 a day per person to provide field sanitation facilities. Even that small figure goes down over time, however, since some of the initial costs would not be continuous, such as the purchase of a water container,” said Stephen C. McIntyre, TRLA attorney. “When compared to the illness, disease and injury in the fields of Texas each summer, compliance with these minimum health and safety laws is a very small price to pay,” McIntyre said.