Immigrant labor firm shut down over lack of insurance
Global Horizons needs to acquire workers' compensation coverage
A Los Angeles-based firm employing immigrant laborers to work on farms in Hawaii has been ordered by a state judge to shut down until it acquires workers' compensation insurance for its employees.
The closure comes after state health and safety inspectors issued repeated citations against Global Horizons Inc., alleging the company committed violations by providing substandard housing for its employees.
It is not clear how many companies were employing Global Horizons workers at the time of the closing, which occurred late Monday. According to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the agency has 10 companies on file as work sites for Global Horizon's foreign workers. They are Howard's Nurseries Inc., Kula Country Farms LLC, Paradise Flower Inc., Kau Gold, Kauai Coffee Co. Inc., Kona Coffee and Tea Co., MacFarms of Hawaii LLC, Syngenta Seeds Inc., Talia Ranch LLC and Waikele Farms Inc.
However, at least one of those companies was not employing any Global Horizons workers at the time of yesterday's closing. Donn Soares, general manager of Kauai Coffee, said the company had employed as many as 30 Global workers in previous harvest seasons, but is not employing any now.
Global executives did not respond to requests for comment.
Circuit Judge Victoria Marks' order came in response to a request for a preliminary injunction filed by state Labor Director Nelson Befitel against Global. The Labor Department alleged the company had violated laws requiring employers to provide workers' compensation coverage for their employees. The court concurred with the agency, finding that Global had failed to provide workers' compensation coverage for at least 102 of its immigrant employees working in Hawaii since late March, when Global's workers' compensation policy was canceled.
The 102 immigrant employees work on farms across the state, including the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, the Labor Department said.
Earlier this year, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Division inspected all farm camps in Hawaii that employed temporary migrant farm workers. Inspectors cited Global camps for multiple violations, including failures to provide sufficient living space and exposure to electrical and fire hazards. Most of the company's immigrant workers are from Thailand and speak little English, the Labor Department said.
"We are aware that this action may affect the migrant workers and Hawaii farmers," Befitel said. "However, we were compelled to take this action out of concern for the health and welfare of these immigrant workers. It's our responsibility to ensure that each worker is afforded the rights and benefits they are entitled to under our laws."
"This action is also a matter of fairness to the other 30,000 Hawaii businesses that are following state law and acquiring work comp coverage," Befitel said.