Vermont migrant farm workers to focus on housing

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MONTPELIER (AP) - A group representing migrant workers on Vermont dairy farms says it hopes to raise awareness this summer about housing and work conditions faced by the immigrant workers.

On Friday, the group Migrant Justice protested at the farm of Ray Brands in Ferrisburgh, where workers said they had been required to share a leaky trailer where sewage sometimes backs up. They also called for back pay for three workers who had quit over the housing conditions.

"(They) dug out the septic system as a solution to the problem when the sewage started leaving the faucets and showers. It's now being pumped in open air, on top of the surface," said Brendan O'Neill, an organizer with the group who translated for Victor Diaz, who had quit the day before.

Brands came out and gave Diaz three checks for the back pay for him and his co-workers.

"I just wish you would have given me two weeks' notice, and we wouldn't have had this. Good luck," he said.

The farmer said he was trying to get the septic issues fixed. He called the demonstration "mob justice" and said that he felt abused by the surprise event, Vermont Public Radio reported.

Migrant Justice leaders say they've been successful in getting driver privilege cards for farmworkers who are in the country illegally and in getting legislation passed on bias-free policing.

Now, they say, they want to turn their attention to working and living conditions on the farms where they work.


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