Under the Dome

Labor dispute lands at NC senator’s door

Protesters delivered a petition to state Sen. Brent Jackson’s office Thursday morning that asks him to pay wages they say he owes former workers.

Jackson, an Autryville Republican, owns Jackson Farming Co. in Sampson County. The protest was connected to a federal lawsuit brought by seven former workers from Mexico who worked on Jackson’s farm on H-2A agricultural visas. The lawsuit claims they were cheated out of money. Money was deducted for work-related travel, and one worker was fired after he complained about unfair wage deductions, the lawsuit said.

Justin Flores, vice president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, said the workers were “blackballed” and prevented from returning this year on worker visas. “We know this is retaliation for speaking out,” Flores said. The lawsuit claims Jackson violated state wage and hour laws and federal labor laws.

Jackson was not in his Senate office when the petition was delivered. Protesters left the building chanting, “Senator Jackson, pay your workers.”

Jackson would not comment on the lawsuit, but his lawyer, Paul Derrick, said workers were paid properly and are not being blackballed.

Two of the workers are back in the United States with other employers, Derrick said.

“Allegations are easy to make,” Derrick said. “That doesn’t mean that’s the whole, factual truth. The senator takes all the complaints, whether it’s lawsuits or whatever, very seriously.”

Robert J. Willis, the workers’ lawyer, said they’re trying to settle the case rather than have it go on for years in court.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner