TRLA Files Complaint Against Crew Leaders

Richard Orr. Plainview Daily Herald. March 15, 1989

Texas Rural Legal Aid of Plainview has filed a class-action administrative complaint charging 10 Olton and Plainview area farm-crew leaders with violating field sanitation standards by not providing “adequate water, toilets, hand washing facilities and a shady place to eat lunch” during the 1988 onion-planting season.

Lodged last Friday with the Texas Department of Health, the complaint names the 10 “respondents” but does not identify the four “complainants” on whose behalf the complaint was filed. The complaint cites legal precedent for not naming the complainants and says the action is justified “because of a legitimate fear of retaliation.”

The complaint asks that the health department conduct “a thorough investigation of the field sanitation facilities provided by respondents during onion-planting” near Plainview in “the early spring of 1988” and also during “ the current 1989 onion-planting” season.

It further asks that the health department file suit in state district court and “fine each crew leader who violated the field-sanitation regulations $200 (a piece) for each day they are determined to have been in violation” of the regulations.

In the press release, TRLA attorney Stephen McIntyre said:

“It is illegal to force the men, women and children who work in our fields to toil under primitive conditions. (It has been) estimated that it would cost about 89 cents a day per person to provide field sanitation facilities.”

“When compared to the illness, disease and injury in the fields of Texas, compliance with these minimum health and safety laws is a very small price to pay.”

According to TRLA, “agriculture-related work is covered by the law,” which requires that employers of 100 or more full-time workers provide “at least 60 days advance, written notice of plant closings, or of layoffs of 50 or more people”

“Employees who do not receive the required notice may seek back-pay and benefits-for each day of the violation-by suing in federal court.”