Skip to main content.

The Struggle of Homer Ramirez

Member Story

The Struggle of Homer Ramirez

Picture of Jeff  Kelly Lowenstein

Wright County Egg conducted the largest egg recall in U.S. history, withdrawing first 228 million eggs and then another 380 million. Many complaints were filed from people seeking compensation for health damages they claim to have suffered after eating eggs produced by Wright an Egg Quality LLC.

Ramireze Homer accuses Jack DeCoster, (right) of abuse.
The Penalty of Homer Ramirez
Monday, September 19, 2011

It's been just over a year since the Wright County Egg conducted the largest egg recall in U.S. history. And for Austin "Jack" DeCoster, owner of the company, things were not easy.

He and his companies - Wright County Egg and Egg Quality LLC - are just two of the names that appear the claims against them, totaling more than a dozen since August, when Wright County Egg withdrew first 228 million eggs and then another 380 million.

Many of the complaints are from people or groups of people seeking compensation for health damages they claim to have suffered after eating eggs produced by these companies.

The demands include parents of children who got severely sick after eating eggs purchased in Massachusetts and Texas.

DeCoster also has been sued for alleged abuses of workers, mostly Mexicans who work for his companies.

In a lawsuit filed on August 1, Homero Ramirez tells a heartbreaking story of suffering physical, emotional and psychological abuse for nearly a quarter of a century that left him deeply traumatized and with a severe case of post traumatic stress and mental depression, among other health disorders.

The complaint says Ramirez, who has limited English proficiency, helped DeCoster to get Mexican workers for some of his many businesses.

In 1988 or 1989, DeCoster Ramirez offered a job in Maine to help recruit Mexican workers to poultry farms. In return, he says he was promised a salary. DeCoster also agreed to pay for Ramirez's home, his electrical service, fuel for heating his home and health insurance.

Ramirez worked in that position for over 20 years, but his were not happy.

DeCoster has implemented "a culture that treats the Mexican workers as" stupid "and virtual slaves, whose only value is their willingness to perform dangerous or humiliating tasks for DeCoster, "the lawsuit said.

Among the most degrading aspects of the deal, according to the complaint are:

* Decoster ask Ramirez to oil large machinery during normal plant operations without shutting down the machine, as required by safety standards. Other workers offered to help Ramirez, but DeCoster refused to let them.

* DeCoster mimicked a gun with his hands and pointed it at the head of Ramirez. He also made statements like, "I'll hit you with a stick in the head," or "I know where you live."

* Routinely, DeCoster pushed Ramirez in the chest with the hands and fingers.

Because of these actions, according to the lawsuit, Ramirez had stress and physical reactions such as nausea and loss of control of their bowels.

When Ramirez sent a letter to DeCoster for protection under the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Human Rights Act of Maine, Decoster stopped paying Ramirez's salary and benefits. Later he also stopped paying health insurance for Ramirez, as well as electricity and gas bills, according to the complaint.

Ramirez's case is not the first legal problem facing DeCoster.

In 2002, the Equal Opportunities Commission found that the Wright plant in Iowa had an environment in which women were often victims of sexual harassment and there was even one case of sexual assault.

And in 2003, the company agreed to pay $1.25 million to the federal government for hiring illegal immigrants.

We will continue to be aware of what happens in the case and discuss implementation issues and Latino workers.

Meanwhile, we want to hear from you.

Do you know someone who has had a similar experience to that of Ramirez? What happened and what were the consequences for the health of the person? Was it effective the government's response?

This story was originally published on