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“Harvest of Dignity,” a 30-minute documentary that chronicles the lives of modern farm workers in North Carolina, won a regional Emmy over the weekend in the topical documentary category.

The film updates Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 report, “Harvest of Shame”, and shows that unfortunately, not much has changed about how our country treats the people who work so hard to deliver the bounty of our farms to our grocery stores and our tables.

Donna Campbell of Minnow Media in Carrboro, worked closely with the Farmworker Advocacy Network to make the film. Upon accepting the award in Nashville Saturday, Campbell said she did so on behalf of North Carolina’s farm workers.

“Those of us who haven’t spent 16 hours in a sweet potato field really have no idea what hard work is,” she said (you can watch the awards speech around 01:14 of the Emmy broadcast.

At least 150,000 farm workers and their families are in North Carolina for each growing season, according to the North Carolina Farmworker Institute.  often making less than $11,000 a year. Wage and safety violations are unfortunately all too common, with workers still facing difficulties like pesticide exposure, unacceptable living conditions and rampant wage theft.

The thought-provoking movie is worth watching with a book club or group of friends or neighbors, sure to raise awareness and generate discussion. Watch the movie and download discussion materials here: http://pic.tv/harvest/.

A Mexican restaurant in Cary agreed to pay its workers back wages it owed for skimping on overtime pay and tips.

Los Tres Magueyes paid 13 workers a total of $145,636 in money owed for unpaid overtime, tips taken from servers and hourly wages, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

The restaurant chain has several locations in the Triangle, as well as one in Danville, Va. Nell Navarro, who identified herself as one of the family member owners of the restaurant, said she had no comment on the settlement when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon at the Cary location.

Waiters and waitresses at the Cary location were paid $3.15 an hour, but only for the first 40 hours they worked, according to the labor department investigation. When working overtime, wait staff only received tips (and no wages) and had to pay $200 a week into an illegal “tip pool” that both servers and non-tipped employees had to participate in, according to the labor department news release.  Labor investigators also found kitchen staff had fixed monthly salaries, regardless of the number of hours they worked each month.

“We found many low-wage employees working up to 50 hours a week without any overtime compensation and receiving pay below the federal minimum wage,” said Richard Blaylock, the director of the agency’s wage division office in Raleigh.

Federal wage law allows restaurant servers to be paid as little as $2.13 an hour, but only when the wait staff earn enough in tips to bring the total wages to the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. Employers are required to make up the difference.

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Some seats still remain for tomorrow’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon with national workers’ rights leader Kim Bobo.

Bobo helped coin the phrase “wage theft” for employer practices that are robbing earned income from millions of Americans and her book Wage Theft in America helped place the issue on the national radar.

Don’t miss the chance to hear from this extraordinary leader.

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

A new report from the N.C. Justice Center and the UNC Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic explores the stories of 10 typical North Carolina workers who have experienced what appears to be a growing trend in our state: wage theft (i.e. an employer’s underpayment or nonpayment of wages to workers who have earned those wages).

“While each worker’s story is unique, common themes emerged from the interviews,” said Sabine Schoenbach, a Policy Analyst with the Workers’ Rights Project at the NC Justice Center and co-author of the report. “For all participants, wage theft created economic uncertainty, and even small wage violations had significant financial consequences. Moreover, serious barriers to redress, including the threat of retaliation, existed.”

You can read the release that accompanied the report by clicking here and the full report by clicking here.