A southwestern Idaho father and son have been charged with violating the state’s farm labor contractor licensing law after failing to pay two of their workers last year.
Angel Alba Sr., 50, and his son, Angel Alba Jr., both of Payette, have pleaded innocent to misdemeanor charges of failing to obtain the required state license. According to an Idaho Department of Labor investigation, the Albas did not obtain a required farm labor contractor bond or workers’ compensation insurance, nor did they pay state, federal or Social Security taxes on the wages involved in the claims by the two workers.
A hearing is expected to be scheduled later this month on the 10th prosecution initiated by the department under the 2003 farm labor contractor licensing law. The law was imposed to protect farm workers from being taken advantage of by contractors and to protect farmers from liability for workers hired under a farm labor contract. Farmers failing to deal with a licensed contractor are liable for wages and potential worker job-related injuries.
Violation of the law carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines and 60 days in jail.
None of the previous violators were sentenced to jail time. All were fined although the fines in two cases were less than the cost of the required license. In one case, the violator was not even placed on probation. Only one convicted violator was given the maximum fine, but it was cut to $400 upon successful completion of probation.
The Idaho Department of Labor launched its investigation after receiving formal claims in November from two Alba employees for unpaid wages of about $2,500 each for work on a Weiser farm run by Alan and Raymond Saito. A department investigator received information over the past two years that the Albas were operating without a license in Idaho, but the wage claims provided the first concrete evidence needed for a formal prosecution. Charges were formally filed against the Albas in Washington County on Dec. 31.
The Saitos have not responded to requests by the department for information about the Alba operation.
The Albas, who paid the wage claims to the two employees, were licensed to operate in Idaho in 2010 but have not been licensed since. A license costs $250 a year. Contractors are also required to insure vehicles used to transport workers, provide workers’ compensation coverage for crews and pay a bond of $10,000 if they have fewer than 21 workers or $30,000 if they have more to cover unpaid wages.
Angel Alba Sr. told a department investigator he could not afford the $30,000 required bond, indicating the Alba crew included over 20 workers.
There are currently 33 legally licensed farm labor contractors in Idaho.