North Carolina Christmas tree cutters’ labor fight shines light on holiday season’s forgotten workers

Christmas tree workers in the mountains of North Carolina face exploitation, but are fighting back with the help of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (Chris Keane, Reuters)

Writing for the Guardian, Payday Senior Labor Reporter files a report on the conditions facing Christmas tree workers this season:

In the mountains of North Carolina, workers at Hart-T-Tree farm in Grassy Creek say they had their wages stolen, were exposed to hazardous chemicals, and lived in constant fear of injury on the job. They also say they faced intimidating bosses pushing them to work harder in order to meet the holiday demands.

So they decided to organize to fight for their rights as members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee – and won a $350,000 wage theft settlement against their employer.

The company acknowledged that mistakes were made and said they were being addressed. “We want to make it clear that we care about our workers and their safety has always been important to us,” a spokesman said.

The workers’ story is an inspiring one that is likely to encourage others in the industry. However, scared by their organizing efforts of more than 10,000 unionized farm workers in North Carolina, Republicans in the North Carolina general assembly are attempting to making it more difficult for farm workers to unionize; putting the gains of workers in the mountains of North Carolina at risk.

Read the full dispatch on the exploitation facing the workers picking your Christmas Trees

 

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is the founder of Payday Report and also covers labor and immigration for The Guardian. In 2015, he was illegally fired for union organizing as Politico’s senior labor reporter and used his $70,000 NLRB settlement to start Payday. The son of United Electrical Workers (UE) Director of Organization Gene Elk, he lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and has dinner with his folks regularly. He can be reached at Melk@PaydayReport.com A Sidney Award winner and proud graduate of Woodland Hills, Elk lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

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