Some migrant labor camps in Western Massachusetts flunked an inspection by the state’s Department of Labor last year but have since improved, according to a new report on the underground economy.
Megan Woolhouse at the Boston Globe has the story: “A task force of labor investigators shut down two ‘farm labor camps’ in Western Massachusetts last year after finding migrant workers underpaid, overworked, and living in squalor, in part of statewide crackdown on employers that dodge wage, hours, tax, and worker safety laws.
“The actions against Chang and Sons Enterprises Inc., of Whatley … were highlighted in the annual report of the Joint Task Force on the Underground Economy to be released Wednesday. The task force of state, federal, and local officials investigated hundreds of complaints, and collected some $15 million in lost wages, taxes, and penalties in 2013 — the most since the task force was launched six years ago.
“Chang and Sons Enterprises was required to pay the workers more than $305,000 in back wages and damages as well as $10,200 in civil penalties, according to the report.
” ‘That was a particularly egregious violation,’ state Labor Secretary Rachel Kaprielian said. Sounding a warning to other businesses skirting regulations, she said: ‘When you violate these basic premises, we’ll find you and fine you.’ …
“More than 22 workers and their families were displaced when the camps were condemned and closed for failing to meet minimum health safety standards and housing code regulations. …
“The farms consequently came into immediate compliance with health, safety and housing rules, the report said, agreeing to pay back wages and damages to the migrant workers.”