Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fruit Dynamics Revisited

In July I opined that an arrest of 105 undocumented workers at a fruit packing plant in Florida, without also citing the employer where there is strong evidence that it too engaged in immigration fraud, was, "lightly veiled discrimination based on race. The masters aren't prosecuted for their fraud and deceit, but the powerless workers are punished for their enslavement."

This morning it was reported that the undocumented workers arrested in that raid have been given "diversion" which would allow the charges to be dropped assuming compliance by the accused.

It was also reported that an investigation into the employer is still ongoing.

The July 16 raid on Fruit Dynamics resulted in the 105 workers being charged with using counterfeit or fictitious personal information to obtain employment and using false identity information for the purposes of filing a workers’ compensation claim.

The vast majority of the arrested workers reportedly never filed a workers’ compensation claim, prompting criticism that the state was using workers’ compensation law as a tool for immigration enforcement.

Florida Statute 440.105(4)(b)(9) holds that it’s unlawful to “knowingly present or cause to be presented any false, fraudulent, or misleading oral or written statement to any person as evidence of identity for the purpose of obtaining employment or filing or supporting a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.”

Investigators from the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud and the Collier County Sheriff’s Department executed the July raid. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said in a release at the time that the lead the investigators were following would “result in dozens of workers’ compensation arrests and many arrests for identity theft that have been potentially devastating for victims.”

It doesn't seem like that is the case after all.
But they KNEW Bowzer was undocumented...
The fact is that the few workers' compensation cases that were in process by workers injured at the Fruit Dynamics plant in Naples, FL resulted in termination of the workers - the employer clearly was sending a message to its undocumented workers: don't file a claim for injury.

Clearly the employer threatened, and executed, retaliatory action in order to keep its undocumented workforce complicit, and quiet.

Though frankly the charges against the workers arrested in my mind should just be dropped, at least the diversion program is the next best thing, except that now these poor folks also have to cough up $50 per month for the administrative cost of the program - and we know that these are people at the lowest rung of the economic ladder. $50 is meaningful to them...

According to this morning's report, though, Fruit Dynamics is also under investigation.

Ashley Carr, deputy director of communications for the Department of Financial Services, said Tuesday that “several allegations remain against the company” and that the investigation into those allegations was continuing, though she would not elaborate further.

The allegations against the company presently appear focused on misreported payroll. An October 2013 audit by Fruit Dynamics’ workers’ compensation carrier showed the company was underreporting its payroll. Guarantee Insurance Co.’s workers’ compensation policy covered 102 employees, but the plant employed an average of 165 employees five days a week according to documents filed in the case.

But attorneys and others representing the arrested workers say that the company knew it was hiring undocumented workers and used that fact as clubs against the workers to ensure their complicity and quietude.

This is more than payroll fraud. It is a case of racial discrimination bordering on enslavement.

Claimants’ attorney Michael Winer, president of Florida Workers’ Advocates, said, "to prosecute anybody under the banner of workers’ compensation fraud, when that person has never had a workers’ compensation accident, just fundamentally to me seems to be wrong.”

It's not just wrong, it's abuse, intolerance and bigotry under the color of law - and that is unforgivable in 2014.


  1. "used that fact as clubs against the workers to ensure their complicity and quietude.

    This is more than payroll fraud. It is a case of racial discrimination bordering on enslavement." Wow love that.... thanks again so much. You know Im ending up having to be a volunteer advocate for some one who may have a huge employer in WA State doing the very same thing to folks. Scary hey. Folks being intimidated from filing claims and are retailiated against when they do.... And now Im finding that Dr.s in the persons care, do not want the Grand Bargain to cover pre existing conditions that are angst or lightened up by the OJI... And are just telling folks to bill their reg. ins. because the Dr.s don't even want to deal with workers comp and many just feel that comp should not be covering certain things so they use their gate keep key to try and close that gate, instead of helping the iw get the service cover by the proper and responsible parties. And judges decides and prior court cases decides this, not a Dr.s gut instinct to say that I think our law should not cover that so im not going to help you and even worse im going to try and block you..... and you iw will have to fight for decades to prove me wrong, even though we both know right now the iw and the laws are with the IW, the dr.s uses his own bias choice and gut instincts to divert and help the big insures cost contain and cost shift, what truly is the WC ins.'s duty... and the Good Dr.s have a duty as well that they are not following, if they are working against and not for the iw's being cover by comp if it can be at all.... Not use your got and own conservative bias to feel it is your duty to save cost over helping a patient get the help they need and have it cover by the legal responsible parties. Not who the Good Dr.s would like to be the responsible parties. Any way This info, will help me to help this other injured worker, fight against his oppressors now in WA State. Peace and thanks again as always.

  2. You may recall that I wrote two pieces about your "stench of fraud" piece back in July.

    Having read this story about the undocumented workers, and knowing that injured workers such as Cecilia are being hounded by the system, it would appear that not only is there a stench, but a rotting corpse of a once noble social insurance experiment called "workers' compensation". I wonder if this is not part of a much larger problem, one that began in this country with the ascension to the Chief Executive office of a former union president, who turned on the union movement the first chance he got, and those who followed after him from his party, whether they were elected to the House, Senate, Governorship, or Presidency, continued down that same path of destruction of the rights and dignity of workers, documented or undocumented, citizens or non-citizens alike. Those who dismiss my writing and the writing of Darren, Cecilia and other advocates for workers who are in the system, and we know who they are, are actually defending what you and I have been attacking...a dying way of protecting workers injured on the job. That is the sad part in all of this, that there are people who defend the status quo.

  3. Retaliation and bullying are not a new thing. Every employer is different. Some wouldn't think of it. Others may not think that they will be caught.
    I believe that what I have experienced and what I still am going through is partly due to the vindictiveness of my former employer.