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January 13, 2022

Eight in ten investigated US cotton gins broke labour laws

The US Department of Labor has revealed over 80% of the US Southeast region cotton gins that were investigated, violated labour laws with a total of US$282,626 missing wages being recovered.

By Laura Husband

An investigation of US cotton gins has identified 81% of the 71 cotton gin employers that were investigated between November 2019 and March 2021, violated labour laws within the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), or the provisions within the H-2A visa program.

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“Our investigations show that far too many cotton gin operators are not compliant with federal labor law,” explained Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta.

The investigation focused on the Southeast region of the US, which is home to some of the country’s largest cotton producers and found three main cotton gin employer violations:

  • Failure to pay proper overtime and maintain accurate records as required by the FLSA.
  • Failure to disclose actual terms and conditions and provide wage statements to workers.
  • Failure to ensure housing safety and health and provide terms and conditions of occupancy as required by MSPA and the H-2A visa program.

The investigation has led to the recovery of US$282,626 in back wages as well as $10,785 in liquidated damages for 620 workers. Plus, the division assessed $152,539 in civil money penalties to 37 employers.

The cotton gins named as breaking labour laws by the US Department of Labor

The US Department of Labor revealed the names of six of the cotton gin employers where recoveries were made in an official statement.

Employer City State Wages/Penalties
Servico Inc. Courtland Alabama $48,918
Sowega Cotton Gin and Warehouse Climax Georgia $12,795
Hi Grade Farm Supply Winona Mississippi $26,202
Gates Cotton Gin Inc. Gates North Carolina $25,557
Vallentines Gin Inc. Cope South Carolina $16,127
ARP Cotton Gin Company LLC Ripley Tennessee $3,939

 

The cotton gin employers and the National Cotton Ginners Association has not replied to Just Style’s request for comment prior to publication.

Coria explained: “The US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division maintains a dogged commitment to ensure that cotton gin workers receive all of their hard earned wages as well as the worker protections they are due. We encourage employers and stakeholders in the ginning industry to review their policy and practices and contact us to request compliance assistance.”

The division is operating an ongoing education, outreach and enforcement initiative to ensure the Southeast cotton and agriculture industries abide by federal law.

Wage and Hour Division representatives are also working with stakeholders to explain the laws governing the industry and offer compliance assistance for those seeking to avoid costly violations.

The division explains it has a number of resources available, including an agriculture compliance assistance toolkit, to provide employers the information they need to comply with the law.

The results from this US cotton gin investigation have been revealed less than a month (23 December 2021) since US President Joe Biden signed a bill to ban the import of all goods from the Xinjiang region of China, following claims of forced labour in the region.

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  • Assess and showcase the growth potential for various Industries in the target economy
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