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Allegations of wage and safety violations at a Coldwater farm may lead to a class-action settlement

Ripe tomatoes hang on the vine, they await harvesting at the Backyard Farms greenhouse in Madison, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
The lawsuit claims the defendants violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, along with other laws and regulations.

Last year, three workers sued a Branch County farm and its parent company in federal court, but now the lawsuit may expand.

Farmworkers Justice and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center represent the plaintiffs, who worked at Maroa Farms in Coldwater.

The workers allege they were illegally exposed to chemicals that led to headaches, nose bleeds, and other ailments.

They also claim that Maroa failed to pay overtime and created a “false and misleading” bonus pay structure. They’re suing Maroa and its parent company, Mastronardi Produce.

On its website the MIRC says some other workers may be entitled to compensation under a proposed class action settlement.

To qualify they must be non-H-2A, migrant or seasonal crop workers who worked at the farm between June 2019 and mid-August of this year.

The deadline to apply is the end of the month.

The MIRC declined to comment on the case, as did a lawyer for the defendants.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

Report for America national service program corps member Michael Symonds joined WMUK’s staff in 2023. He covers the “rural meets metro” beat, reporting stories that link seemingly disparate parts of Southwest Michigan.