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14 Okt 2023

USA: Star Farms, supplier to Kroger & Safeway, faces investigation into renewed allegations of labour rights violations incl. cos responses and non-responses

You continue to exploit these workers and profit off their work while refusing to pay them the wages you have stolen from them.
Attorneys from Towards Justice and Colorado Legal Services, in a demand letter to Star Farms.

In September 2023, the Denver Post published an article describing exploitative working conditions on Star Farms, in Colorado (USA). Seasonal workers on H-2A visas from Mexico, employed on the farm, experienced a number of labour rights violations, including:

  • Wage theft: the workers allegedly did not receive regular pay-checks. According to Star Farms bankruptcy filings, nearly 70 workers have filed wage claims, ranging from $1000 to $5000 each.
  • Recruitment fees: the employer allegedly illegally passed travel and visa costs onto workers.
  • Long working hours: the migrants allegedly worked from 7am to 6pm.
  • A lack of access to water: the employer allegedly did not provide the workers with clean water.
  • Poor living conditions: the bathrooms allegedly were highly unsanitary, going ‘for months’ without being cleaned.

The article alleges the farm supplies to a number of supermarkets and grocery companies, including Palombo Farms Market, Safeway (part of Albertsons), and Kroger.

The article reports Star Farms repeatedly violated federal labour laws, including repeated incidents of wage theft and subsequent penalties by the U.S. Department of Labor. Following the most recent allegations, the federal labour department is again investigating the farm.

Star Farms told The Denver Post that he ‘pretty much’ pays all the workers on time, that clean water is always available, and bathrooms are regularly cleaned. On previous violations, the employer said the cases were ‘so long ago, he could not recall the details’. The employer also denies he passes costs onto workers.

A spokesperson for Palombo Farms Market told the Denver Post the market has no association with Star Farms.

In October 2023, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited Kroger and Safeway (Albertsons) to:

  1. Respond to the article’s findings and workers’ allegations of abusive working conditions at Star Farms;
  2. Disclose the steps the company has taken to investigate and remedy Star Farms workers for the abuse reported; and,
  3. Disclose any human rights due diligence it undertakes prior to entering into contracts with suppliers and when monitoring working conditions at suppliers.

Safeway's (part of Albertsons) response can be read in full below. Kroger did not respond to the Resource Centre’s request for comment.



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