This past summer, I worked as an intern with South Carolina Legal Services in the firm’s Migrant Unit. Before I came to South Carolina, I did not quite know what to expect in terms of the actual conditions for farmworkers here. I did not know what their thoughts would be about their employers or their situations. Once I started meeting workers, I heard their concerns about wages, living conditions, and transportation.
Many workers that we visited complained about being overworked and underpaid, some working up to 16 hours a day. They were not getting paid for all their hours worked. They were not getting any overtime wage rate. They were about to travel back to their home countries with little or no money because of the wage theft by their employers. This was really disturbing to me because I could tell in their eyes that they felt hopeless. I knew that they were not getting given what was promised in their contracts. These were really young men. I understood their pain. I knew it could have been me in their position.
I also witnessed terrible living conditions. These workers were living in tents and having to pay rent. I could not believe it. The scary aspect of this was that they were told to cook in their tents using propane gas tanks. They did not even have a refrigerator.
While those situations were terrible, I am glad I took part in Student Action with Farmworkers. It allowed me to inform the workers about their rights and connect them to our attorney in order to discuss their issues and how we could provide aid for them. I genuinely feel as if my participation in the program truly helped the workers because I was able to reach out to hundreds of farmworkers throughout the summer.
2019 Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) Intern
South Carolina Legal Services, Migrant Unit