Mississippi Delta farmers and ginners have made excellent progress in meeting requirements for hiring and housing migrant and seasonal workers, says Eric Nash, U.S. Department of Labor.
“Compliance has improved big-time” over the past several years, he said at the joint meeting of the Delta Council's Ginning and Cotton Quality Improvement Committee and the Southern Cotton Ginners Association.
Nash said agency investigators “will be out doing enforcement actions” during the harvest/ginning season and that employers need to continue to be vigilant about rules and regulations applying to migrant/seasonal workers.
These include salaries and bonuses, computing/payment of overtime, housing inspection, disclosure of working conditions, wage statements, and posting of notices and forms in proper places.
For housing inspections, there is a 97-item checklist that must be followed. Employers don't have to provide housing for these workers, Nash noted, “but if you do, you must comply with the standards.”
Non-compliance for any of the DOL rules/regulations “can be costly,” he said, “so it's better to take a proactive stance on these things.”
Nash said Mississippi ag employers “are doing a fantastic job” on complying with child labor laws, with no violations recorded in a long while. (For gins, no one under 18 may be employed.)
In a bit of good news for Mississippi ginners, most of whom are facing drastically curtailed operations this fall as a result of cutbacks in cotton acreage, the Entergy Corp. has agreed to a one-time reduction in its facilities charge to gins.
Cheryl Comans, customer service manager for the electric utility, said based on a 45 percent reduction in the state's cotton acreage this year, gins that are Entergy customers will be granted a 65 cents per registered kilowatt hour credit on the facilities charge portion of their electric bills.
She emphasized that the credit will apply for this ginning season only.
“This is a significant reduction, and we very much appreciate them stepping forward to work with us on this,” said Lexington, Miss., ginner James Killebrew, chairman of the Delta Council committee.
He said the council has also been working with rural electric associations to try and develop a similar arrangement.