Farm worker report: workers, families live in “offensive conditions”

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights last reported on migrant and seasonal farm workers 45 years ago. The newest report, released yesterday by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, points to living and working conditions which four decades ago were deplorable, and have only grown worse.

The report shines a light on often substandard living conditions, discrimination, unfair wage and hour issues, and unsafe work environments, with few state resources to investigate and enforce state and federal laws.

The commission also reported that there are many Michigan growers who treat workers and their families fairly, who are humane and responsible. There are growers who exceed state and federal requirements for housing and working conditions.

But the bad actors need to be addressed, according to the commission.

The commission’s report, careful to make clear that the report is not an attack on the agencies which are in charge of inspecting work sites and enforcing the law, focuses on how to make necessary changes in Michigan’s agricultural industry.

The department will work with Department of Health Services Interagency Migrant Services Committee and other state agencies to implement more than a dozen recommendations, including:

  • Identify ways to improve migrant labor housing inspections.
  • Ensure swift, certain, systemic and sufficient fines for housing, health and other violations.
  • Ensure migrant seasonal farm workers are  not paid less than minimum wage.
  • Coordination of state agencies that provide services, in order to avoid duplication.
  • Educate workers, growers and crew leaders on worker rights.
  • Educate law enforcement agencies and the public about immigration laws.

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