Slave Cynthia: Corporate Slave (Abusing Cynthia)

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Left in a cage overnight after Maree abused her with a strap-on, Cynthia couldn't sleep thinking of all the things that might happen to her in the morning. But even Cynthia's twisted imaginings couldn't predict the humiliation that Maree had in store for her. The fifth short story in the Abusing Cynthia collection. Read more Read less.

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Other factors, including fear of retaliation and lack of access to enforcement mechanisms, means contractual promises, in practice, rarely provide H-2 workers with any meaningful security. Misclassification Other contract violations are routine. One of the most common is that of misclassification. This occurs most often when workers who should be characterized as H-2A workers because, for example, they are picking produce in the field are instead brought in as H-2B workers and labeled as packing shed workers, for example.

Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States

This results in workers being paid substantially less than the wage rate they should lawfully be paid. It also results in the workers being denied the substantially better benefits and legal protections afforded to H-2A workers, such as free housing and eligibility for federally funded legal services. In another common form of misclassification, employers simply misstate the kind of work H-2B employees will be performing, so that the prevailing wage rate is set for one kind of work, such as landscaping, when the workers actually will be doing work that warrants a higher prevailing wage rate, such as highway maintenance.

As a practical matter, the only thing that workers can do, then, is to receive far less than they are legally entitled to under the law. Lawyers for guestworkers in North Carolina report numerous accounts of H-2A workers who were deliberately sent by their employers to work on other operations owned by employers or their relatives, operations that would have to pay U. In one case, several H-2A Christmas tree workers were assigned by their employer to work in a home construction business, where they performed skilled carpentry at far less than the prevailing wage.

This is just one more way that employers can exploit the guestworker system for profit — and the vast majority of workers can do nothing about it. When Cirilio arrived in the United States, his employers confiscated his passport and withheld it for the duration of his employment. Cirilio initially worked long hours baling pine straw, often leaving the house before dawn and working until sunset. The employer had too many workers and there was hardly anything for us to do. We were desperate for work, but the grower warned us that if we tried to work for anyone else, he would call Immigration and have us deported.

We could hardly afford to buy food. On a few occasions, we went out into the woods to look for herbs to eat. While Cirilio was in the United States, his wife in Guatemala gave birth to their son, who died soon after birth.

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I was so sad and frustrated. Cirilio stayed for a little while longer, but the work did not pick up.


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My debts were mounting, but I was scared to leave the farm without my passport. Guestworkers toil in some of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. The reality is that many injured guestworkers are not able to obtain the benefits to which they are entitled under this system. And workers often lack the knowledge needed to negotiate the complex system in order to have benefits continue when they leave the United States. Indeed, the insurance carrier of one large company employing substantial numbers of guestworkers has a policy of affirmatively cutting off workers when they leave the United States, which they inevitably must do.

Some states for example, New Jersey mandate that examining physicians be located in the state where an injury occurred. This means that injured workers have difficulty obtaining benefits while in other states and in their home countries. Some states require workers to appear in the state for hearings. These rules put guestworkers at an enormous disadvantage in obtaining benefits to which they are entitled. As a practical matter, workers also have an extremely difficult time finding a lawyer willing to accept a case for a guestworker who will be required to return to his or her home country.

In , a group of civil rights and immigrant rights groups filed an amicus brief with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights relating to the treatment of immigrants in the United States. That brief states:. In those states, whenever the family member is living outside the United States and is not a United States citizen, the family members do not receive the full death benefits award. There are several ways in which states limit compensation to nonresident alien beneficiaries.

Some states restrict the types of non-resident dependents who are eligible to receive benefits as beneficiaries Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania. Alabama denies benefits to all foreign beneficiaries. Such policies obviously disproportionately affect the families of guestworkers killed on the job.

The forestry industry illustrates the problems many guestworkers face in gaining access to benefits. Getting injured on the job — either in the forest or in the van traveling to and from the forest — is a common occurrence for tree planters. They rarely receive any compensation for these injuries. They are gashed by chain saws, bruised by tumbling logs and rocks, verbally abused and forced to live in squalor. Leonel Hernandez-Lopez of Guatemala was working as a tree planter in when he cut his right knee badly on the job. All the while I had to keep paying rent on the hotel room where I was staying, even though I made no money.

Mexican forestry worker Jose Luis Macias was spraying herbicides in and took a bad fall after stepping on a branch that snapped. My leg was swollen and I asked the crew leader to take me to the doctor.

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Finally I went to the doctor on my own. I have thousands of dollars in medical bills and I have never received any money for the time I lost from work. The pressure on workers to keep injuries to themselves is tremendous. Workers who report injuries are sometimes asked to sign forms saying they are quitting. They are told that if they sign and go home, they may be allowed to come back the following year.

Injuries and workplace hazards are prevalent in other H-2B industries too. In violation of federal Occupational Safety and Health Act requirements, most employers failed to provide workers with protective gloves. The vast majority of workers received no formal training by employers on safe crab-picking techniques. Under the H-2 system, it is simply too easy for employers to cast aside injured workers with impunity.

Many large employers who rely on guestworkers attempt to avoid responsibility for unlawful practices by obtaining workers indirectly through a labor contractor. Increasingly, the entities bringing guestworkers into the United States are not the companies that end up using the labor. This practice has devastating results for both U. The participation of these entities — known as labor brokers or contractors — in the H-2 program is fundamentally at odds with the purpose of the program, which is to allow employers to bring in foreign labor on a temporary basis and only when they show there is a shortage of U.


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  • Because job contractors have a permanent, year-round need for workers to supply to their employer-clients rather than a temporary need, their participation in the program erodes the built-in protections for U. Job contractor involvement in guestworker programs is also problematic for foreign workers. H-2 workers, who usually speak no English and have no ability to move about on their own, are completely at the mercy of these brokers for housing, food and transportation.

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    No matter how abusive the situation, even if workers are not paid and their movements are restricted, they typically have no recourse whatsoever. Having a legal remedy against a labor contractor with no assets is no remedy at all. And it is extremely difficult for workers to get meaningful redress for violations of their rights from the ultimate employers when the employers can evade liability by shifting the blame to the contractors.

    Recognizing these problems, the DOL has attempted to better regulate — though not prohibit — the involvement of job contractors in the H-2A and H-2B programs in recent years. Unfortunately, these efforts have either fallen short or been defeated by employer challenges. In , the DOL enacted new regulations that require farm labor contractors to list the employers that will actually be using the labor on their application for the temporary labor.

    Ten Years a Corporate Slave: A Decade of Damage Control

    In theory, these measures should prevent sham companies with no assets from obtaining H-2A workers and hiring out their labor. In practice, however, farmworker advocates report that labor contractors are circumventing these protections by supplying fraudulent information to the DOL, including claims that they are growers or employers, to avoid the bond requirement. Under the current H-2B regulations, job contractors may petition for H-2B workers by demonstrating that the ultimate employer, rather than the contractor, is experiencing a temporary labor shortage.

    The DOL has attempted to change this practice by proposing regulations that require job contractors to establish their own temporary labor shortage and to file applications jointly with their employer-clients as a pre-condition of applying for H-2B workers.