Fighting for the Rights of Farmworkers

© Alan Pogue

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has joined a coalition of legal advocates, healthcare providers, and community service providers in submitting a complaint to Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, arguing that denying farmworkers the right to visits from social service organizations is a violation of the workers’ human rights.

TRLA attorneys often represent migrant farmworkers who work long hours in harsh conditions on ranches and farms across the country. Sometimes these conditions can be abusive, unhealthy, and illegal. Organizations trying to provide services to these workers – such as education on their legal rights – can be harassed or threatened for their attempts.

The complaint contains numerous examples of employers denying workers access to services, including from TRLA’s Nashville-based office, Southern Migrant Legal Services (SMLS). During one incident, SMLS representatives were harassed by a property owner in Kentucky, forced off the property by local law enforcement, and threatened with criminal trespassing after they responded to worker requests for legal help.

There are an estimated 3 million year-round and seasonal migrant farmworkers in the United States. The coalition is asking the U.N. to provide guidance to the United States in securing the rights of migrant farmworkers to legal advocates and community service providers.

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