Two Mississippi Catfish Farms Resolve Lawsuit Over Alleged Unequal Pay for Immigrant Workers Compared to Local Black Employees

Two Mississippi Catfish Farms Resolve Lawsuit Over Alleged Unequal Pay for Immigrant Workers Compared to Local Black Employees
Two Mississippi Catfish Farms Resolve Lawsuit Over Alleged Unequal Pay for Immigrant Workers Compared to Local Black Employees (Credits: AOL)

Two Mississippi catfish farms have resolved a lawsuit alleging that they engaged in discriminatory practices by favoring foreign workers over local Black farmworkers, paying the former significantly more for the same type of labor, according to attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

Southern Migrant Legal Services and Mississippi Center for Justice filed the lawsuit in August on behalf of 14 Black farmworkers against Jerry Nobile, his son Will Nobile, and their farms. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, asserted that Black workers were systematically underpaid and denied employment opportunities in comparison to non-Black foreign workers at Nobile Fish Farms, which also cultivate corn and soybeans.

The parties involved have reached a settlement on terms deemed mutually agreeable, details of which remain confidential, as confirmed by court records indicating the settlement was finalized in February. Rob McDuff, an attorney with the Mississippi Center for Justice, stated that the announcement was delayed until Tuesday due to the fulfillment of all settlement terms.

McDuff expressed hope that their legal efforts would serve as a deterrent for Delta farmers and others across the United States, emphasizing the importance of fair wages for local workers.

Two Mississippi Catfish Farms Resolve Lawsuit Over Alleged Unequal Pay for Immigrant Workers Compared to Local Black Employees
Two Mississippi Catfish Farms Resolve Lawsuit Over Alleged Unequal Pay for Immigrant Workers Compared to Local Black Employees (Credits: AOL)

An attorney representing Nobile Fish Farms was unavailable for immediate comment on Tuesday.

This settlement marks the eighth instance of resolution in favor of Black farmworkers who alleged displacement by higher-paid immigrant workers on Mississippi Delta farms, an area known for its economic challenges. Notably, five of these settlements were reached without the necessity of filing lawsuits, as reported by Southern Migrant Legal Services and the Mississippi Center for Justice.

In a similar vein, two farms in Sunflower County settled lawsuits in December 2022 concerning allegations of preferential treatment towards white laborers from South Africa over local Black employees, reiterating the persistent issue of discriminatory labor practices within the region.

Sunflower County, situated approximately 100 miles northwest of Jackson, boasts a population of just under 24,500, with Black residents comprising around 74%, according to Census Bureau data.

Hannah Wolf, an attorney with Southern Migrant Legal Services involved in the Nobile Fish Farms case, highlighted the requirement under the H-2A guest worker program for employers to prioritize hiring local workers before resorting to immigrant labor. Despite this, reports continue to surface from U.S. workers who claim displacement from their jobs in favor of guest workers. Wolf emphasized their commitment to investigating such claims and pursuing legal action where warranted.

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