Gregory Schell pounded his fists on the table, shouting into the telephone: "I want to nail him!"
He slammed down the receiver.
"I like upset people," said Schell, who has made an occupation -- and a reputation -- out of listening to the complaints of migrant workers and trying to solve their problems.
"Greg Schell is to migrant workers what Ralph Nader is to consumerism," said Virginia Secretary of Commerce Betty J. Diener.
Schell, a 31-year-old Harvard Law School graduate, is the director of the Legal Aid Bureau headquartered in a modest, two-story house on a back street of this town in the heart of the Delmarva Peninsula.
For the past two years he has led a small troop of lawyers, paralegals and college students across the Eastern Shore, seeking out the dilapidated housing and allegations of wage violations that accompany the annual migration of farm workers into the vegetable-producing center of the mid-Atlantic Seaboard.
While Schell considers his organization a voice for the long-ignored migrant labor forces, many farmers and growers consider him an agitator.
"You couldn't print what some people call us here," said Mary Ellen Beaver, a Legal Aid assistant who is spending the summer traveling the back roads of the Eastern Shore, inspecting labor camps and interviewing migrant workers.
"You've got advocate organizations crawling all over the place," said Philip McCaleb, chairman of the Virginia Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Commission. "On the sight of a single roach they will make a complaint to Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor , which must be responded to."
Earlier this summer, several growers who are frequent targets of Schell's complaints to federal and state agencies filed complaints with Virginia and Maryland senators accusing him of harassment.
Their complaints prompted the U.S. Legal Services Corp., which provides about half the funding for Schell's office, to launch an investigation into his activities. The agency has threatened to cut off payments to Schell's office for September, saying that Maryland Legal Aid officials have refused to allow federal investigators to conduct an audit of their books and activities.
Schell said he does not consider his activities harassment.
"We call it 'unprecedented activity,' " he said.
Regarding the complaints from the growers, Schell declared: "It's a question where the bearer of bad tidings sometimes catches it. I don't think anybody can really argue that the conditions were not abominable."
Schell, a wiry, energetic man who starts his day with a one-liter bottle of soda and two candy bars, turned away from traditional law practice when a Florida rural legal services representative approached him after his senior year in law school.
Now, after four years in Florida and two in Salisbury, Schell regards migrant workers as his constituency.
"I just do migrants," he said. "It's all I know."