In 2012, the Labor Department threatened to seize the blueberry crops of a couple of Oregon farmers until they settled a Labor complaint and signed away their right to appeal the settlement. With crops at risk of rotting away, the farmers settled, agreeing to pay Labor more than $240,000. The alleged “crimes” were Labor’s claims the farmers had violated minimum wage requirements under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Labor used the threat of seizure of these perishable crops to extort the settlement.
After signing and getting their crops back, the two farmers sued.
The courts were unimpressed with Labor’s behavior.
By using the threat of rotting crops as coercion, the feds trampled due process. In January, Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin ruled Labor had prevented defendants from having “their day in court.”
In February, Labor asked US District Judge Michael McShane to review Judge Coffin’s decision. Judge McShane agreed with the original ruling, noting the growers had challenged “unique circumstances” involving “a highly perishable product at peak harvest.”
Yew betcha. Hence the extortionate nature of Labor’s behavior. “Nice crop you got there….”
Congressman Kurt Schrader (D, OR) has been equally unimpressed with Labor’s behavior. He’s now writing a bill that would “exempt certain perishable agricultural commodities” from this sort of action.
Schrader doesn’t go far enough, though. The law should be rescinded altogether. The Federal government has demonstrated conclusively that it can’t be trusted with it.