Yakima, WA: (Jul-13-07) A class action lawsuit was filed against Global Horizons Inc., Valley Fruit Orchards, and Green Acre Farms alleging that the nation's largest labor contractors and two growers in central Washington's Yakima Valley failed to pay more than 600 farm workers, violating federal labor laws. The class action lawsuit stemmed mostly from a complaint that the growers, working through Global Horizons, wrongly displaced farm workers with guest laborers from Thailand in 2004 under the H-2A program, which allows employers to import foreign labor if they can demonstrate a lack of local workers. Officials claimed that there was undisputed evidence of six violations of federal law, including workers being fired for failing to meeting productivity requirements they hadn't been told about, workers not paying a promised rate for pear harvesting, and giving the Thai workers transportation but telling area residents they had to have their own rides to work.
Global Horizons later lost its state business license over other violations, including deducting state income taxes from the Thai workers' paychecks, even though Washington has no state income tax. In a settlement reached, a judge ordered the three defendants to pay $1.9 million in damages to the farm workers. Further, Global Horizons owner Mordechai Orian was ordered to pay $39,500 for failing to comply with pretrial court orders. [SEATTLE TIMES: LABOR VIOLATIONS]