A new report on the state of New York’s dairy farm workers reveals widespread worker abuse and injury for the struggling undocumented Latin immigrant population.
New York’s dairy industry is booming due in large part to the rise in sales of yogurt (American yogurt brand Chobani is headquartered in NY).
According to the report, entitled “Milked NY: Immigrant Dairy Farmworkers in New York State,” 83 percent of dairy farm workers surveyed were undocumented immigrants coming typically from four countries: Mexico (61%), Guatemala (34%), Honduras (2%), and Puerto Rico (2%).
“Immigrant dairy farmworkers are a hidden population that is difficult to access because of their vulnerable immigration status, work schedules, and geographic isolation on rural farms,” reads the report.
Typically working 12-to-14-hour shifts, the undocumented workers often work six days a week without overtime pay. The report also noted that the workers are routinely victims of abuse and discrimination on the job, with preferences, promotions, and increased wages going first to American workers. Many are often provided substandard housing conditions with high rents and are commonly victims of wage theft, making paying for housing or other expenses difficult. “Twenty-eight percent of immigrant dairy farmworkers have knowingly experienced at least one instance of wage theft; still others suspect it, but have difficulty interpreting their pay stubs and do not know for certain.”
And many immigrant workers are regularly injured on the job — more often than not severely. The report noted that 68 percent of the injuries required immediate medical attention. Eighty percent of workers reported frequently feeling depressed.
Undocumented workers are also common in other factory farm industries including slaughterhouses. They’re often brought to the country by scouts for the employer with promises of high-paying farm jobs and housing, only to be forced into some of the most high risk and high-stress jobs in the country.
The report calls on the industry to make improvements to the treatment of its workers, and it urged consumers to “use their voices to push for change, holding prominent dairy companies accountable for working conditions throughout the supply chain.”