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Sept. 22, 2005

State agencies reach settlement with farm-labor firm

OLYMPIA — The departments of Labor & Industries (L&I) and Employment Security (ESD) today announced a joint settlement with farm-labor contractor Global Horizons. It requires payment of past-due taxes and restitution of money owed workers, establishes new levels of protections for domestic and foreign workers, and provides Global a limited opportunity for a second chance to continue operating in the state.

The agreement provides stronger oversight of Global by requiring the company to:

  • Comply in good faith with recruiting and hiring eligible, qualified U.S. (domestic) workers prior to bringing in foreign workers.
  • Guarantee to use ESD-referred workers for the contract period, if hired. If they are not retained for that period, Global must pay them at least 75 percent of the contract amount.
  • Secure a separate repatriation bond to ensure that non-U.S. workers can return to their countries of origin in the event of any violation of the agreement by Global.
  • Retain an independent third party chosen by ESD and Global to investigate and provide to ESD reports of the company’s treatment of workers.
  • Pay for independent quarterly audits of premiums and wages to certify the accuracy of the wages paid, industrial insurance premiums due and unemployment insurance taxes due.
  • Clearly specify workers’ rights and Global’s responsibilities in written recruitment agreements provided in workers’ preferred language before collecting recruitment fees from workers.
  • Fully and correctly identify to ESD and L&I the current location of housing of any workers for which Global is required to provide housing.

A violation of any of the conditions of the agreement or provisions of the law serves as a basis for L&I to immediately revoke Global’s farm-labor contractor license and ESD to immediately discontinue its recruitment and referral of qualified domestic workers to the company. Global would have appeal rights, but could not continue to do business – other than complete its current contracts – while appealing.

“If this case continued through the court system and appeals, it could have stretched out two or three years while Global continued to operate in this state as it had been,” said L&I Director Gary Weeks. “This settlement provides immediate and certain relief by requiring Global to provide restitution, and it provides important long-term protections to domestic and foreign workers and to farmers who need assurances of a labor supply to pick their crops.”

“We have worked hard to resolve this situation quickly, before more people are hurt by Global Horizons’ predatory practices,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee. “Rather than dragging this out in the courts, we’ve reached an agreement that puts the company on a very short leash and creates a better situation for potential workers.”

In the settlement, Global Horizons of San Mateo, Calif., admits that it violated numerous laws and rules. The settlement stipulates that Global will immediately pay penalties and make complete financial restitution of various past-due obligations owed to workers and the state totaling more than $230,000. This includes underpaying wages to workers and underpaying workers’ compensation premiums, among other things.

At issue has been Global Horizons’ business practices as the company has brought in out-of-state agricultural workers under permission of a federal program called H-2A. This is a federal guest-worker program used to bring foreign workers into the United States on nonimmigrant visas when there are not enough local workers to fill the jobs. Global Horizons has brought in workers from Thailand to pick farm crops.

In May, the Employment Security Department issued a notice for “discontinuation of services” to Global Horizons due to its hiring practices and displacement of U.S. workers.

In addition, Labor & Industries has cited the company for not having a farm-labor contractor’s license, underreporting and underpaying industrial insurance premiums, not paying workers’ airfare from Thailand to the U.S., improperly making payroll deductions for federal income taxes which are not withheld from H-2A workers, and improperly deducting state income taxes in Washington, which does not have such a tax. Global was also cited for health and safety violations involving worker housing. Global had appealed the citations but, by signing today’s settlement, agrees to drop those appeals.

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For more media information: Steve Pierce, L&I public affairs manager, 360-902-5412 or 253-307-1729; Sheryl Hutchison, ESD communications manager, 360-902-9289 or 360-480-2096.
Fax transmittal number: 360-902-5420 On the web at www.LNI.wa.gov


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