Ex-Swift Workers Sue over Alleged Immigrant Hiring Scheme

December 20, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Eighteen former employees of Swift & Co. have sued the Greeley, Colorado meat packing firm over allegations Swift tried to artificially lower market wages by hiring illegal immigrants.

A news release from Dallas law firm Heygood, Orr, Reyes & Bartolomei said it had filed the lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Swift and Dallas investment firm HM Capital Partners LLC, Swift’s owner. The complaint alleged the company’s conduct amounted to an “enterprise that grossly affected commerce through a pattern of racketeering activity.”

According to the announcement, Swift executives “actively sought to locate these illegal immigrants and hire them – knowing full well that it was in violation of the immigration laws of the United States to do so.” The lawsuit also accused the company of transporting, smuggling, harboring and concealing illegal immigrants.

“By lessening its labor costs and increasing its profits, Swift has severely damaged the potential earnings and livelihood of these hard-working men and women,” declared plaintiff lawyer Angel Reyes, in the announcement.

The news release said that the plaintiffs were employed at the Swift facility in Cactus, Texas, north of Amarillo.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers said market wages in Cactus were about $20 an hour when the plant opened but are now $12 to $13 per hour.

In an online statement posted in response to government raids at several of its plants the company insisted it followed the laws governing illegal workers: “ Swift & Company fully supports comprehensive immigration reform to address the significant policy tension that exists between the need for employers to accurately determine workers’ eligibility versus the need to address privacy and non-discrimination concerns. The Company remains committed to preventing the employment of unauthorized workers in its workforce.”

Last week, federal immigration officers raided six Swift production facilities in six states, arresting nearly 1,300 people. A total of 295 people were arrested on immigration violations or other criminal charges in a raid of the Cactus facility on December 12.

The raids were part of an investigation into the theft of Social Security numbers by people to work at Swift plants in Cactus; Grand Island, Nebraska; Greeley; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota.