Most people think indentured servitude ended long ago in the United States, but that’s not entirely true.
A private forestry company recruited dozens of workers from the rural Mexican state of Chiapas to thin and clear forest brush on federal land. The workers were brought to theUS and told that they would be able to work for eight months.
Upon arriving, they were housed in a makeshift labor camp and given only a few hours of work each week. When they were paid — for just a fraction of the hours they had been promised — they found that additional deductions had been taken from their wages for rent, travel from Mexico, and other unauthorized and unexplainable expenses. Between the limited hours they worked and these deductions, the wages were so low that they didn’t even have enough money to buy food. When the workers complained and tried to remedy the situation with US authorities, the company summarily fired them.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the workers. Justice in Motion was called upon to locate a number of the workers in Chiapas to gather information and signed documents from them for the case. After a long legal process, the forestry company finally paid up. The recovered money made a big difference in the workers’ lives. One worker used his recovered wages to expand his small grocery business, eliminating the need to migrate again.