Federal Court in Georgia Orders Human Trafficker to Pay Over $275,000 to Pine Straw Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:    Soli Mercado-Spencer, smercado-spencer@glsp.org

Tel. 404-463-1633

Brunswick, GA, August 1, 2019 – On July 25th, 2019, a United States District Court Judge ruled in favor of thirteen pine straw workers against farm labor contractor Manuel Sanchez.  The guest workers, who were in the U.S. with H-2A temporary work visas, complained that Sanchez subjected them to human trafficking conditions, including forcing them to work for little to no pay and subjecting them to inhumane living conditions.  Sanchez did not answer the lawsuit and did not oppose the workers’ motion for default judgment.  The District Court for the Southern District of Georgia entered a judgment against Sanchez in the amount of $278,889.66.  The workers had previously reached a settlement for a portion of their unpaid wages with the pine straw company, Premium Pineneedles, LLC.

Manuel Sanchez recruited these workers from poor villages in Mexico, with false promises of gainful employment and free housing.  During recruitment, Sanchez defrauded the workers out of hundreds of dollars in illegal fees, and induced them to take on debt and travel to the United States to work in Sanchez’s pine straw harvesting operations in Georgia.  Once in Georgia, Sanchez refused to pay the workers’ wages, subjected them to inhumane living conditions, and used threats of deportation to coerce the workers to remain under his employment.  The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services Program represented the workers.  The lead attorney for the case, Solimar Mercado-Spencer, commented, “Cases like this are all too common in Georgia. We are glad that we were able to expose one of these unscrupulous farm labor contractors and that our clients had their day in court.  We will continue our fight for the most vulnerable workers in our state.”

About Georgia Legal Services Program: Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) is a nonprofit law firm that offers free civil legal services to Georgians 60 and older and those with low-incomes outside of the Atlanta metro area. Our mission is to provide equal access to justice and opportunities out of poverty.  Visit www.glsp.org or call 404-206-5175 for more information.

Read the Judge’s Order