Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Migrant Oyster Shuckers File Class Action in Ala.

MOBILE, Ala. (CN) - Two migrant workers filed a federal class action against R&A Oysters Inc., claiming the company refuses to properly compensate the 100 Mexican "guest workers" it employs in Alabama.

In a complaint filed in the federal court in Mobile, Ala., plaintiffs Miguel Angel Fuentes Cordova and Leobardo Morales Inclan say R&A Oysters recruited them from Mexico to work in its processing plants "because of an apparent shortage of U.S. workers" willing to shuck oysters.

The two men say they spent considerable sums to obtain temporary H-2B work visas, including the costs of travel from their home villages to a larger city so they could attend their consular interviews.

Cordova and Inclan claim that once they arrived in the United States, R&A required them to pay $170 to ride on the company's chartered bus to work.

The plaintiffs say they have not been reimbursed for these expenses, in violation of the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act, and other rules promulgated by the U.S. Department of Labor.

According to the men, the Labor Department allows only "reasonable" deductions from wages, and that the expenses they incurred fall well outside what the federal government deems reasonable.

In addition, Cordova and Inclan say that Rodney and Ann Fox, owners and officers of the company, unfairly subject their Mexican workers to paycheck deductions for tools and equipment - including gloves, overalls, boots and knives - that are necessary for them to do their jobs.

These deductions caused their pay to fall below the minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the plaintiffs say.

Additionally, Cordova and Inclan claim they were forced to live in housing owned and controlled by defendants, but the property did not receive certification that it complied with health and safety codes.

Cordova and Inclan seek actual and liquidated damages for themselves and the class, payment of the wages they are currently owed, injunctive relief, and court costs.

They are represented by Samuel Brooke of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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