A lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court here by three migrant farmworkers from Thailand against two local growers and a Los Angeles-based labor contractor, alleging that the workers were underpaid and housed in substandard conditions.

In the suit filed on Monday, some of the workers said they were forced to go into personal debt in order to get a job in the United States. They said they were promised work that didn't materialize.

A number of alleged violations of state and federal law were outlined in the suit. It seeks class action status for all Thai workers brought to the Yakima Valley in 2004 and Hawaii in 2004-2005 to harvest fruit under the federal H-2A guest-worker program.

The suit was filed by lawyers for Ratthapon Yapunya, Somkhit Nasee and Wisit Kampilo. The trio was hired to work at Valley Fruit Orchards of Wapato and Green Acre Farms of Harrah in 2004 and 2005.

All three companies are facing a different suit filed last summer by local Hispanic workers, who allege they were illegally and intentionally displaced with workers from Thailand.

In 2005, the state revoked Global Horizons farm-labor contractor license for failing to comply with a settlement agreement reached after various violations of state wage, insurance and safe-housing laws. The company has said it would appeal that decision.

In May, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered Global Horizons to pay nearly $300,000 in fines and back wages for allegedly deceiving and underpaying 88 Thai workers hired to harvest onions and pineapples in Hawaii.

Monday's suit states that Global Horizons authorized one of its agents in Thailand, a company called AACO International Recruiting Ltd., to find workers for the H-2A jobs. H-2A is the name of the temporary visa given to workers after employers have shown they cannot find U.S. workers for the job.

According to the suit, the workers incurred costs ranging from $10,000 to $17,000 in various fees and travel expenses in order to obtain the jobs. They went into debt if they didn't have the money, the suit said.

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