Saturday, August 14, 2010

Indentured Servants via TDOT Contractor

I added the following post at KnoxViews yesterday and am reprinting it here today.

Workers for a Smyrna company TDOT contracted for landscaping say they are being treated to horrible conditions, according to this report from the Daily News Journal. One worker, here on a work visa, was "rescued" this week by a group based in New Orleans. It's a truly grim tale - TDOT is trying to distance itself from the company's actions.

From the report:

A Mexican guest worker says a landscaping company with Tennessee state contracts and a federal stimulus loan guarantee held him and fellow workers like indentured servants, confiscating their passports and subjecting them to constant surveillance by managers who were often armed.
At the company housing in Smyrna, 13 or 14 people are lodged in a small house with one bathroom and no beds, Jimenez said. Workers built their own beds, he said. They each pay $100 a month rent, which is deducted from their pay.

They routinely were driven to the office at 6 a.m. and sometimes did not return until 8 p.m., but were not paid for any of the time spent waiting for assignments, going between the office and worksites or cleaning and maintaining the equipment, Jimenez said. Paychecks were often for only about 25 hours of work a week.

TDOT spokeswoman Julie Oaks said in an e-mail that most of the claims made about Vanderbilt Landscaping were outside the purview of the Transportation Department, but it was preparing to review the company’s payroll records

Full story here.

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