Migrant Workers File Class-Action Against Monsanto over Labor Standards

Migrant Workers File Class-Action Against Monsanto over Labor Standards
Posted on
Updated on

Agrotech giant Monsanto is facing another class-action lawsuit, but this time it has nothing to do with glyphosate or any of its other products, but rather labor conditions for some of the company’s migrant workers. [1]

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 2 migrant workers who allege that Monsanto violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Agricultural Workers Protection Act while the workers were employed in fields where the company grows its seed-corn. The class-action is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind.

The plaintiffs in the case allege that Monsanto failed to pay its workers the minimum wage and that it failed to pay its employees when compensation was due. The workers further allege that Monsanto misrepresented the way the employees would be paid, and didn’t bother to keep accurate payroll records.

The lawsuit states that the migrant workers, called farm labor contractors, or FLCs, were hired to detassel and rogue corn in the Midwest, but those contractors failed to pay them a promised wage. [2]

Detasseling involves removing the top “tassel” part of the corn plant, and rogueing refers to removing undesirable plants from the fields so that they do not grow to maturity.

However, the farm labor contractors are not listed as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed June 29, 2017 in the U.S. Northern District Court of Illinois Western Division.

Read: Busted: Monsanto Abusing Illegal Workers in “Slave-Like” Conditions

Teresa Hendricks, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and director of the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project, said the reason the contractors weren’t named was because they:

” … are not the ones with any real control. They are typically undercapitalized and struggle themselves with Monsanto, some have sued Monsanto even for pay. They will be deposed as witnesses in our case.”

By Hendricks’ estimates, the potential damages could reach $2 million. What’s more, the fact that it’s a class-action suit means that hundreds of workers could be affected.

Two-million is chump change to Monsanto, however, and $2 million divided among hundreds of people doesn’t add up to much compensation.

“I’m not aware of any other multi-state class action against Monsanto over its labor practices in production of seed corn. Potentially, it could be the highest amount of damages of this type of suit.” [1]

According to the lawsuit, the FLCs:

“… did not receive funds from Monsanto for detasseling work until Monsanto approved particular areas for detasseling, which could take several weeks and could require as many as four pass throughs by the workers.”

It further states that because the contractors:

“… were generally very small entities with little capitalization or available funds to pay workers, the Monsanto FLCs, upon information and belief, would not pay workers the full piece rate they should have earned, in accordance with the disclosures, each week after the detasseling workers finished their work. Instead, the FLCs would pay the workers a partial rate, with a promise to make up the missing funds later, even at the end of the season when the detasseling work was completed.”

It goes on to say:

“For example, Plaintiffs Perez and Nieves were promised by Monsanto FLC Benito Vasquez/B&F Detasseling that they would receive additional pay after they completed their work for Monsanto and left the Midwest. However, this pay was never provided, and these Plaintiffs were underpaid by thousands of dollars as a result.”

Agrochemical company DuPont Pioneer has also faced allegations of hiring contractors who mistreat and underpay workers in its seed-corn fields.


[1] Mother Jones

[2] Investigate Midwest