The North Carolina Growers Association is even worse than I thought. Going back to at least 2001 it has been the subject of scathing investigative reporting. Client growers who had retained it as a labor broker were found to be housing contract laborers in squalid, crowded, moldy barracks with inadequate toilet facilities, failing to provide protective equipment or portable toilets in the field, filing deliberately inflated referral requests and projections about the length of the work season with government agencies, sandbagging American applicants during the interview process, fraudulently refusing to pay for the return carriage of their employees at the end of the season, committing wage theft, refusing to provide first aid to injured and sickened employees, intimidating employees into not speaking to regulators about work conditions, having injured or disaffected employees deported and blacklisted, and, in one case, brandishing a pistol at a group of workers, frightening them so that they packed up their possessions and fled down a country road on foot.
This wanton fraud and viciousness is by no means limited to the NCGA. The Mother Jones article also described allegations that growers in Massachusetts planted spies among their field hands and a pamplet from a trade group in Idaho instructing growers to exaggerate the physical strenuousness of job vacancies in help wanted ads in order to discourage Americans from applying for H-2A jobs. The counterrecruitment conspiracy in Idaho was so effective that the state unemployment office was able to place over 1,800 times as many domestic applicants in non-H-2A farm jobs. That said, Stan Eury, the NGCA’s president, sounds like an unusually bombastic piece of shit: “It doesn’t take an analyst to show you there’s a labor shortage. Anyone who says there’s not is an absolute idiot.” The growers’ lobbies rarely deploy anyone so uncouth to make their case in interviews with the news media. His organization, too, seemed to be especially notorious in regulatory circles: according to Mother Jones, “one internal state memo refers to the association as ‘the largest alien smuggling ring in this nation’s history.'”
Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Eury is now under federal criminal indictment on 87 counts relating to H-2A visa fraud. The indictment includes a request to claw back nearly four million dollars’ worth of proceeds and additional personal property used in the commission of the crimes from Eury and two codefendants upon their conviction. Eury’s daughter was named in an earlier indictment but has been dropped from amended indictment, suggesting that she has turned state’s evidence in exchange for immunity.
Four conspirators pocketing close to a million dollars apiece by smuggling indigent farm workers to growers who worked them to the point of exhaustion and sickness and housed them in abject squalor: this, too, is an all-American story.
Love it or leave it.