JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Harris Russell Farms (HRF), a catfish farm in the Delta, is being sued by five Black Mississippi farmworkers for alleged racial discrimination.
The lawsuit alleges that HRF used the H-2A visa program to hire white South African workers, which resulted in unpaid wages and lost job opportunities for the five farmworkers.
The H-2A visa program allows HRF to hire foreign workers when there’s no American workers available to perform the job. Federal law requires that farmers pay domestic workers the same rate and offer the same job opportunities as H-2A workers. However, as the lawsuit claims, HRF paid the Black workers “significantly” less and gave them fewer hours.
The five farmworkers are being represented by attorneys with Southern Migrant Legal Services and the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm that seeks to advance racial and economic justice.
“With poverty rampant in the Mississippi Delta, it’s unacceptable that local farmers are hiring exclusively white foreign workers before their fellow Mississippians,” said Mississippi Center for Justice CEO and President Vangela M. Wade.
This is the second lawsuit filed by the two organizations that challenge discriminatory practices by agricultural operators in the Delta. The first lawsuit was against Pitts Farms.
The suit asks the court to find that the employer violated the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act and federal anti-discrimination laws by failing to offer their Black workforce the same wages and opportunities as the H-2A workers.