Eighteen former employees of Swift & Co.’s Cactus, Texas, processing plant have filed a $23-million lawsuit alleging that the meat packing company conspired to manipulate and depress the labor market and wages by hiring illegal immigrants.

Two weeks ago federal immigration officers raided six Swift production facilities, arresting nearly 1,300 people in what is believed to be the nation's largest-ever workplace raid on illegal workers. Twenty employees of the Worthington, Minn. Swift & Co. meat plant raided last week by immigration agents have been indicted on criminal charges. Fifteen of the indicted face charges of aggravated identity theft, one is charged with re-entering the United States after having been deported and the others face lesser charges involving false documents.

According to the lawsuit, Swift executives "actively sought to locate these illegal immigrants and hire them -- knowing that it was in violation of the immigration laws of the United States to do so." The lawsuit also accuses the company of transporting, smuggling, harboring and concealing illegal immigrants.

The plaintiffs claim that when the plant opened wages averaged about $20 an hour, compared to the $12 to $13 per hour paid today. They blame Swift and its main investor, HM Capital Partners, who the suit claims conspired to attract low-cost workers to the plant and thereby depress wages.

Source: Meatingplace.com