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14 Sep 2023

Grace Hussain, Sentient Media

USA: Federal govt. investigations into labour abuse cases on farms allegedly hit "all-time low"

Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam

"Biden Labor Department inspected just 879 farms last year - factory farms included,"

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute reveals that the federal government is failing to adequately protect one of society’s most vulnerable groups — farm workers. Despite promising to be “the most pro-worker and pro-union President in American history” the Biden Administration lags behind his predecessor, as farm labor investigations hit an all-time low.

Just this week the administration rolled out a series of new protections for agricultural workers, but these would mean little without oversight and enforcement...

The Labor Department is responsible for oversight of these laws, but the division responsible for on-farm inspections is conducting fewer than ever, the Economic Policy Institute found. In 2000, the division carried out 2,431 inspections of agricultural operations. But that number has steadily dwindled since then, and in 2022, regulators hit a record low: just 879 assessments. 

When investigations are actually carried out, they uncover abuse. Previous research conducted by the economic think-tank found that 70 percent of all farm investigations revealed violations — — chief among them wage theft and failure to provide adequate housing...

While farm worker investigations may be dwindling, the number of immigrants invited to the country to work in agriculture is on the rise...