SMYRNA — A Mexican guest worker says a landscaping company with Tennessee state contracts and a federal stimulus loan guarantee held him and fellow workers like indentured servants, confiscating their passports and subjecting them to constant surveillance by managers who were often armed.
Hilario Razura Jimenez said in an interview that he was rescued from Vanderbilt Landscaping’s company housing Wednesday night by staff from the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity. He waited until everyone else was asleep before sneaking out at about midnight, he said. Staff with the New Orleans-based nonprofit were in touch with him by text message and drove out to pick him up.
Alliance executive director Saket Soni said company officials last week put another worker on a bus back to Mexico when they learned that he had been talking with their group.
A person who answered the phone at the company on Thursday said he would not comment on the allegations and refused to give his name. The company, which has $2.4 million in state Transportation Department contracts and a $900,000 a stimulus loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has offices in Smyrna and Mason.
Jimenez said he has come to the U.S. on an H2B guestworker visa twice before. Both times the pay and conditions were exploitative, but he came again because he was desperate.
The invisible hand of the free marktet — it’s the smell of freedom in the morning!