A group of black farmers in the Mississippi Delta filed a federal lawsuit alleging that immigrants were illegally paid at a higher rate to replace them at their jobs after the black farmers spent years training them.
Richard Strong and five other farm workers allege in a lawsuit that their bosses flew in white immigrants from South Africa to work under the guidance of the black American workers tending the fields in Mississippi, only to turn around and replace the black workers years later. Strong said the immigrant workers were being drawn to the United States on H-2A visas for wages of up to $11 per hour, more than the $7.25 per hour the black workers were making.
Black farmworkers in Mississippi lost their jobs to white South Africans brought to work in the cotton fields. In interviews and in a lawsuit, the workers said they had trained their replacements, who were paid more. Pics by the great @sbmaney_https://t.co/XQDGSRNhxe
— Miriam Jordan (@mirjordan) November 12, 2021
“I’ve been around farming all my life. It’s all we knew,” Strong told The New York Times. Strong, age 50, worked in the fields for more than 25 years. But now, Strong said he and his black colleagues were told their services are no longer needed due to the influx of immigrant labor from South Africa.
“I never did imagine that it would come to the point where they would be hiring foreigners, instead of people like me,” Strong said. “It’s like being robbed of your heritage.”
The lawsuit further alleges that the black workers were subjected to racial slurs and other demeaning treatment by a white supervisor. The farmers are being represented in the litigation by the Mississippi Center for Justice.
“Black workers have been doing this work for generations,” said the Center’s attorney, Ty Pinkins. “They know the land, they know the seasons, they know the equipment.”
Growers can hire temporary farm laborers from abroad for up to ten months at a time, according to the NYT. The workers must be paid an hourly wage set by the Department of Labor, which varies state-by-state. The immigrants also have their housing and transportation paid for. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE: Haitian Illegals Find New Crossing In Yuma, Arizona)
According to the lawsuit, the immigrants were paid a rate that gradually increased to $11.83 per hour by 2020, compared to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for the black workers. The Americans got an extra dollar per hour on weekends. In order to hire the immigrant workers, the growers must demonstrate that there aren’t enough Americans willing to do the jobs.
“I gave them half my life and ended up with nothing,” said Richard’s brother Gregory, who was also let go. “I know everything on that place. I even know the dirt.”