- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

SNOHOMISH, Wash. (AP) - About 35 immigrant farm workers have filed a class action lawsuit against Golden Eagle Farms in Snohomish, claiming they planted blueberries last fall but haven’t been paid.

The complaint filed in King County Superior Court claims that Golden Eagle hired an unlicensed, unbonded labor contractor who failed to pay wages that were owed in 2014 or follow labor laws, such as keeping employment records, according to the Daily Herald of Everett reports (http://is.gd/AmCxby ).

A state Department of Labor & Industries official said the contractor, Father Like Son Farm Labor Supply, and owner Alfredo Garcia Jr. did not have the proper license or surety bonds to hire workers.

Golden Eagle’s lawyer Adam Belzberg said the farm gave the contractor money to pay the workers. He wasn’t sure if the farm checked the contractor’s credentials.

Now the farm can’t find the contractor, Belzberg said.

And Lourdes Margarito of Everett and her coworkers still haven’t been paid.

Their Wenatchee-based lawyer, Joe Morrison, said Golden Eagle is liable for paying the wages because it failed to check the contractor’s credentials before the workers were hired.

The lawsuit said most of the employees are immigrants with limited income, education, understanding of the U.S. court system and English-language proficiency. Many communicate primarily in Spanish or Mixtec, a dialect.

Morrison declined to discuss the immigration status of his clients because whether they were working legally in the U.S. is not relevant to the court case.

“Anyone is entitled to these protections under the law,” he said.

Speaking in Spanish, Margarito said she started working at the farm in late September. She and at least 20 others from Snohomish County planted blueberries from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. After working all day in the fields, Margarito went to a second job, washing dishes at a restaurant until midnight.

The native of the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, said the schedule was exhausting but she needed the work. She is raising a son, 7, and a daughter, 1, in Everett.

Margarito said the workers were verbally offered 10-hour shifts at $12 an hour. They were paid several days late for work in September, with cash in envelopes with names handwritten on the front, she said.

The workers say they haven’t been paid wages for October. Each person is owed about $650, according to their lawyers.

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Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com

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