Foreign Farm Workers in U.S.:

Department of Labor Action Needed to Protect Florida Sugar Cane Workers

HRD-92-95: Published: Jun 30, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1992.

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Carlotta C. Joyner
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the enforcement of Caribbean workers' contracts, focusing on: (1) the payment of workers' transportation costs; and (2) health and life insurance plan and savings benefits.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of Labor has taken little action to enforce H-2A Program laws and regulations pertaining to migrant Caribbean workers' transportation costs, health insurance plans, and savings plans; (2) Labor will only attempt to recover H-2A program costs from Florida growers for the 1991-92 harvest season; (3) Labor is negotiating with Florida growers an $860,000 settlement for past transportation costs for Caribbean workers; (4) Labor decided that payroll savings deductions from Caribbean workers should be optional; (5) most Caribbean workers receive 20.5 percent of the 23-percent payroll deduction that is transferred into savings accounts in their home countries; and (6) 2.5 percent of their gross wages goes to fund the West Indies Central Labour Organization.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor conducted investigations with regard to transportation costs, health and life insurance plans, and the savings plan. In March 1994, the Department reported that the PWBA investigation of H-2A workers' health insurance and savings programs operated by the West Indies Central Labor Organization (WICLO) for the Florida sugar cane industry had "found no abuse or mishandling of monies...and the participants received, at least, the benefits to which they were entitled." As of August 30, 1996, with regard to transportation costs, Labor reported that "compliance actions to secure reimbursement of excess transportation costs to certain Caribbean H-2A workers have been completed and the cases closed."

    Recommendation: Recognizing that there are practical limitations on the extent to which Labor can retroactively calculate and recover income that Caribbean workers have been improperly denied, the Department of Labor should reassess the extent to which workers may have lost income or other benefits because of violations of H-2A and Employment Retirement Income Security Act requirements with regard to transportation costs, the health and life insurance plan, and the savings plan, and, to the fullest extent possible, recover workers' lost income.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor


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