Class Action Settlement Proposed Against Vineyard Contractor

El Editor. Lubbock, TX. May 3-9, 1990

On October 24, 1989 State District Judge Alex Gonzalez of Ft. Stockton, Texas ordered that a 1987 law suit filed by six farm workers against a labor contractor proceed as a class action on behalf of the vineyard workers. The law suit alleges that in 1983, 1984, 1985, and  1986 the labor contractor failed to comply with several provisions of the Agricultural Worker Protection Act while the workers labored in the University of Texas vineyard located 30 miles east of Ft. Stockton.

After the class certification order was signed, the labor contractor filed a motion with the El Paso Court of Appeals in an attempt to have the case dismissed. The motion was denied. Three weeks later the labor contractor filed a similar motion with the Texas Supreme Court and it was denied again on February 28, 1990.

“After the Texas Supreme Court upheld the farm workers right to proceed with this law suit, the labor contractor entered into serious negotiations to settle this case,” said Stephen C. McIntyre, attorney for the vineyard workers. “On April 3, 1990 we submitted a proposed $30,000 settlement to the Court. There will be notices sent to the workers and a hearing will be held on June 26, 1990 to determine whether the settlement is fair and adequate for the farm workers,” McIntyre said.

The farm workers labored at the vineyard in section that were owned by the University of Texas Systems and in nearby sections that were leased by UT to a French-American corporation that has since filed for bankruptcy.

There have been several strikes at the vineyard over the years that were led by members of the International Union of Agricultural Workers.

The farm workers are represented by Rudy Mares, Plainview staff attorney of Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc., Farm Worker Division and Stephen C. McIntyre, from the Lubbock law firm of Mercado & McIntyre.

McIntyre has been involved in a number of class action law suits on behalf of farm workers over the last four years in West Texas. “It is my firm belief that until agricultural employers realize they will have to pay damages for disobeying the law, they will continue to treat farm workers like tools instead of human beings entitled to the full protection of the law,” said McIntyre.