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Fw: Farmworkers win back wages...: AP, advisory, statement, fact sheet...

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  • Norma J. F. Harrison
    ... From: Jocelyn Sherman, UFW To: Norma J F Harrison Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 8:40 AM Subject:
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2003
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Jocelyn Sherman, UFW" <ufwofamer@...>
      To: "Norma J F Harrison" <normaha@...>
      Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 8:40 AM
      Subject: Farmworkers win back wages...: AP, advisory, statement, fact sheet...
      United Farm Workers

      Feb. 12, 2003
      UFW helps 37 artichoke workers win
      more than $181,000 for unpaid work

         Settlement of a lawsuit announced on Wednesday in Salinas means 37 workers at the nation's largest artichoke operation will receive more than $181,000 for time they worked without pay while being transported to and from work on company vehicles in Monterey County. The announcement from the United Farm Workers, which assisted with the lawsuit, comes nearly three years after the California Supreme Court ruled compulsory travel time must be paid.

         "There are probably many more cases where employers are not compensating farm workers, especially those employed by farm labor contractors, in violation of the state Supreme Court decision" in Morrillion v. Royal Packing Co. (2000), says UFW President Arturo Rodriguez. Still pending is a class-action lawsuit referred to attorneys by the UFW on behalf of more than 1,000 vegetable workers at Salinas-based D'Arrigo Brothers. It also seeks to recover lost pay for travel time.

          "Farm workers' rights must be respected," Rodriguez continues. "Their time and work in the fields must be valued. These workers' courage makes it easier for other farm workers to stand up for their rights under the law."

         The settlement "sends a powerful message to growers who flaunt the labor laws," says Virginia Villegas, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs. "We are not going to wink and ignore these violations. Workers must be paid for the time they are expected to work."

         "The real heroes here are our clients who despite numerous hurdles and great adversity stuck together for three years," says Mark Talamantes, another worker attorney. "They were unified in this case against their former emloyer."

         The just-settled legal action was filed by Marcos Camacho Law Corp. and Talamantes & Villegas in December 2001 after workers employed by Sea Mist Farms LLC and Sea Breeze Harvesting turned to the union for help. Both companies headquartered in Castroville are affiliates of Ocean Mist, the biggest artichoke operation in the United States.

         Over four years, from Dec. 3, 1997 to Dec. 3, 2001, the lawsuit alleged that the defendants required workers to report to a central location, a parking lot, from which they were driven in company buses to Monterey County fields. They were not paid for their travel time nor for various pre-shift and post-shift tasks such as putting on company-issued equipment, loading tools and exercises.

       - end - 

      Settlement of Sea Mist Lawsuit
      February 12, 2003--Salinas, Calif.

         Farm workers' rights must be respected. Their time and work in the fields must be valued. That is what this lawsuit is all about.

         We congradulate the workers who are plaintiffs in this legal action for standing up for their rights. These 37 farm workers stood together because they valued their time and work in the fields. And their courage makes it easier for other farm workers to stand up for their rights under the law here in the Salinas Valley and across the state.

         Nearly three years ago California's highest court ruled farm workers have to be paid when employers make them travel to and from work in company vehicles. Yet there are probably many more cases where employers are not compensating farm workers, especially those employed by farm labor contractors, in violation of that landmark state Supreme Court decision.

         The United Farm Workers has also referred to attorneys a class-action lawsuit seeking to recover lost pay for more than 1,000 farm workers who labor for D'Arrigo Brothers, which also has headquarters in the Salinas Valley.

         So this settlement sends a strong message to all growers and farm labor contractors: The law requires you to respect the labor of farm workers. And the law demands that you pay farm workers for their time.

         This settlement also sends another message: When farm workers assert their rights in the fields, they are not alone. The United Farm Workers, area attorneys and community leaders will stand with them to ensure that wrongs are remedied and injustices are set right.

       - end - 

      Facts About the Sea Mist Lawsuit Settlement

      Sanchez et al. v. Sea Mist Farms LLC, Sea Breeze Harvesting, Arthur Barrientos and Ed Boutonnet, Case No. M 56954

      Court where filed: Superior Court of California, County of Monterey.

      Date filed: December 3, 2001. Case settled: January 27, 2003

      Nature of Case:

      Twenty-two plaintiffs brought this case under Business and Professions Code ยง 17200 on behalf of themselves and the general public. The plaintiffs alleged that defendants required them and others to report to a central location where the employer then transported workers on company buses to various fields in Monterey County to perform agricultural work. The complaint alleged that the company did not pay the plaintiffs and others for this time as "hours worked." In addition, the lawsuit alleged that workers were required to perform various pre-shift and post shift work such as putting on company-issued equipment, loading tools and exercises--all without compensation.

      Settlement Terms:

      Under the settlement, the 22 plaintiffs will collect a total of $166,669. In addition, 15 current or former employees of the defendants who were also affected by the compulsory travel time will collect a total of $15,000. The grand total for the settlement, which affects 37 workers, is $181,669. 

      Background on plaintiffs: The plaintiffs worked in the defendants' cultural crew weeding, stumping, planting and replanting artichokes in 14 different fields within Monterey County. The plaintiffs were all long-term employees of the defendants, having worked with their employer for between eight and 22 years.

      Background on defendants: Sea Mist Farms and Sea Breeze Harvesting are affiliated companies of Ocean Mist. The Ocean Mist label is recognized as the largest artichoke operation in the United States.

      Background on law firms: Marcos Camacho Law Corp. represents the United Farm Workers and other workers on issues of labor and employment law. Talamantes and Villegas is a law firm devoted to wage and hour class actions and unfair practice litigation.

      Morrillion v. Royal Packing Co. (2000): In 2000, the California Supreme Court found that plaintiffs' compulsory travel time in company buses to the fields was compensable as "hours worked." The UFW filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs. 


      Associated Press

      Farm workers win back wages in Monterey County settlement over mandatory travel time

      Tuesday, February 11, 2003 

      (02-11) 17:35 PST SALINAS, Calif. (AP) -- Three dozen artichoke workers won a legal victory in their claim that they should have been paid for the time their employer spent shuttling them to and from the fields in company-owned vehicles, the United Farm Workers announced Tuesday.

      The 37 farm workers will receive $181,000 in back wages as a result of their settlement with Sea Mist Farms and Sea Breeze Harvesting, both affiliates of the nation's largest artichoke operation, Ocean Mist, the labor group said.

      The workers will divide the money based on how many hours they worked. The settlement was approved Jan. 27 by Monterey County Judge Robert O'Farrell.

      Calls for comment to Castroville-based Ocean Mist were not immediately returned Tuesday.

      The workers sued the company in December 2001, alleging it had violated a California Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing employees pay for compulsory travel.

      For the previous four years, they had been required to report to a central parking lot before being transported to the fields, the suit claimed. They also had to load tools and perform other pre-shift tasks, without being compensated for their travel or preparation time.

      "We are not going to wink and ignore these violations," said San Francisco lawyer Virginia Villegas, who helped represent the plaintiffs.

      Copyright: 2003, Associated Press


      Associated Press

      UFW wins right to represent NorCal strawberry workers

      Tuesday, February 11, 2003 

      (02-11) 03:48 PST LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The United Farmworkers has won the right to represent nearly 1,000 strawberry workers in Northern California who had voted against its representation three years ago.

      The UFW won the right to represent pickers at Coastal Berry Co. in Watsonville last May, but union officials said they had been keeping the victory quiet in hopes of winning a new contract before word got out.

      "We wanted to wait until there was a contract at Coastal Berry and then share the news with everyone in order to give farm workers faith that it could be done," UFW President Arturo Rodriguez told the Los Angeles Times.

      The victory brings to more than 1,600 the number of berry pickers in Northern and Southern California now represented by the UFW.

      Meanwhile, Coastal Berry officials and union organizers are negotiating a new contract, and UFW officials say they hope to have a deal by next month.

      Workers voted overwhelmingly on Nov. 13 to drop the Coastal Berry of California Farm Workers Committee in favor of the UFW. The committee at first challenged the results, arguing that the election took place at a time when fewer than 50 percent of the peak work force was available, as required by state law.

      Fred Capuyan, regional director of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, at first agreed with the committee. But the UFW persuaded him to change his mind by citing a 1976 case that was allowed to stand when the vote came close to meeting the 50 percent threshold. The committee then dropped its appeal.

      Some industry officials indicated the UFW was downplaying the results in light of the legal challenges, but Rodriguez denied that.

      Copyright: 2003 Associated Press  

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