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Grower linked to listeria fined over migrant housing

DENVER | A Colorado cantaloupe grower that was implicated following an outbreak of listeria that killed 30 people last year was fined by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday for failing to provide safe migrant-worker housing.

The federal agency said grower Eric Jensen rented migrant workers unsanitary, overcrowded rooms at a motel he owns. Inspectors said many rooms lacked beds, laundry facilities and smoke detectors. Mr. Jensen faces $4,250 in civil penalties. The fine was not linked to the listeria outbreak.

“Profiting at the expense of vulnerable workers is not just inhumane, it’s illegal,” said Chad Frasier, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Denver.

Mr. Jensen said Thursday the fine was unwarranted. He said he didn’t know the people who rented the rooms for a month were migrant workers.

“It was closed at the time, and they wanted to rent it,” Mr. Jensen said. He said he didn’t know he had to verify their employment.

The outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe last fall was the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years. Thirty people died, 146 people were sickened and one woman suffered a miscarriage after eating tainted cantaloupe, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Food and Drug Administration said in October that pools of dirty water on the floor and old, hard-to-clean equipment at Holly, Colo.-based Jensen Farms probably were to blame.


Salaried workers at Ford to get raises, bonuses

DEARBORN | Ford Motor Co. is showing confidence in its turnaround and the U.S. economy by giving pay raises and bonuses to 20,000 white-collar workers, mainly in the U.S. and Canada.

Workers got letters from President of the Americas Mark Fields last week saying they’ll get 2.7 percent base-pay increases on April 1. They’ll also get bonuses this year based on their individual performances, spokeswoman Marcey Evans said.

Ford made $6.6 billion in the first three quarters of last year. It will report fourth-quarter earnings later this month. The company’s U.S. sales rose 11 percent last year. It has made a huge turnaround since 2006, when it lost $12.6 billion and had to borrow more than $20 billion to stay in business.

Salaried workers didn’t get pay raises last year, but many were granted performance bonuses. They got only merit pay in 2010 and no raises or bonuses were given in 2009, Ms. Evans said.

The raises are necessary to keep Ford’s pay competitive with other Fortune 100 companies, Ms. Evans said. Each year, Ford studies pay at competitors and other companies, she said.

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