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California Artichoke Farmworkers Wins Lawsuit!

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  • SIUHIN@aol.com
    California Artichoke Farmworkers Wins Lawsuit! By: US-Mexico Border Actions News Service After a two-year legal battle, a group of local farmworkers is
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2003
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      California Artichoke Farmworkers Wins Lawsuit!
      By: US-Mexico Border Actions News Service

      After a two-year legal battle, a group of local farmworkers is celebrating a $181,000 settlement from the country's No. 1 artichoke producer.

      The farmworkers, represented by the United Farm Workers, received the settlement in late January from Ocean Mist Farms, a Castroville-based artichoke producer. They claimed they were not paid for the time they spent going to the fields on company buses and not compensated for the time that they spent gearing up for field work.....


      News and Analysis:
      1) FARMWORKERS SETTLE SUIT (Monterey Herald)
      2) Artichoke workers win suit (Salinas Californian)
      3) Recibirán pago por viaje al trabajo (La Opinion)
      =============================================================
      1) FARMWORKERS SETTLE SUIT
      Castroville artichoke producer agrees to pay $181,000 over lost wages
      By JONATHAN SEGAL
      jsegal@...
      http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/news/5172061.htm
      Monterey Herald

      After a two-year legal battle, a group of local farmworkers is celebrating a $181,000 settlement from the country's No. 1 artichoke producer.

      The farmworkers, represented by the United Farm Workers, received the settlement in late January from Ocean Mist Farms, a Castroville-based artichoke producer. They claimed they were not paid for the time they spent going to the fields on company buses and not compensated for the time that they spent gearing up for field work.

      However, Art Barrientos, Ocean Mist's vice president of harvesting, said the settlement did not reflect any admission of fault.

      "Individuals were free to take their automobiles to the work site if they chose," he said. "Rather than go through a lengthy trial, we thought it was in everybody's best interest to reach an agreement."

      But union lawyer Annabella Cortez said the law on the matter is clear.

      "It's not a new requirement that workers be paid for their travel time," she said. "Hopefully, this will send a message to the industry."

      Cortez said the workers spent between 30 minutes and an hour daily in transit to artichoke ranches around Monterey County. She also said the company held meetings with workers while on the buses.

      Of the 37 workers receiving portions of the settlement, 22 who were official plaintiffs in the lawsuit will receive about $6,000 each. An additional 15 workers who did not participate in the lawsuit but were identified as victims will receive about $1,000 each. Individual awards varied, said Cortez.

      "We are not the farmworkers of the past," said Francisco Roa, a worker receiving benefits from the settlement. "We live in a country where we have rights, and they must be respected. Those who are still owed money, they should not be afraid to come to the union for help."

      Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, praised the workers for persevering.

      "We've got to begin respecting the rights of farmworkers," Rodriguez said. "Laws do work if the workers are willing to take the initiative. We will continue to pursue cases like this."

      Lawyers for the union are waging a similar class-action against Salinas-based D'Arrigo Brothers for not paying 1,000 of its workers for time spent in transit to the fields.

      John Snell, labor relations manager for D'Arrigo Bros., would not comment on the case.

      Copyright: Monterey Herald
      =============================================================
      2) Artichoke workers win suit
      Dispute over pay during transport to fields by company
      By Brian Gaylord
      The Californian
      http://www.californianonline.com/news/stories/20030213/localnews/977580.htmlhttp://www.californianonline.com/news/stories/20030213/localnews/977580.html
      Salinas Californian
      Thursday, February 13, 2003

      An affiliate of the nation's largest artichoke operation has settled a lawsuit brought against it by 37 artichoke workers.

      Under terms announced Wednesday in Salinas, Castroville-based Sea Mist Farms LLC, an affiliate of artichoke giant Ocean Mist, will pay more than $181,000 for workers' unpaid time during transport to and from work on company vehicles in Monterey County.

      Over four years, from Dec. 3, 1997, to Dec. 3, 2001, the lawsuit alleged 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 or for various pre-shift and post-shift tasks such as putting on company-issued equipment, loading tools and exercises.

      Marc Grossman, a spokesman for United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, said growers and farm-labor contractors still ignore a landmark decision of the California Supreme Court that is nearly three years old.

      "It (decision) says workers have to be paid for being transported," Grossman said. "This is affirmation that farm workers' time in the field has to be valued."

      Sea Mist, however, does not admit to any wrongdoing, said Art Barrientos, vice president of harvesting for Ocean Mist and named in the lawsuit. Sea Mist officials believed settling the suit made more sense for everyone involved than dragging out the dispute in court, Barrientos said.

      "Our position over the years was that transportation to the field was voluntary," he said. "Those individuals who chose to take vehicles to the work site did so."

      Barrientos said he understood the law to apply only when it's mandatory that employees take company transportation.

      UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said in a statement, "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."

      The UFW referred Ocean Mist workers to law firms but is not representing the workers, Grossman said. The just-settled legal action was filed in December 2001 by Marcos Camacho Law Corp. of Salinas and Talamantes & Villegas of San Francisco.

      Grossman said a class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 1,000 workers for D'Arrigo Bros., headquartered in Salinas, has been filed over the same pay-during-transport issue. That lawsuit is awaiting trial.
      =============================================================
      3) Recibirán pago por viaje al trabajo
      El Sindicato de Trabajadores Agrícolas señala victoria de trabajadores
      Redacción de La Opinión
      La Opinion
      http://www.laopinion.com/estado/?rkey=00030212162700922067http://www.laopinion.com/estado/?rkey=00030212162700922067


      El Sindicato de Trabajadores Agrícolas (UFW) anunció ayer un acuerdo judicial por el cual 37 trabajadores de la mayor procesadora de alcachofas del país recibirán más de 181 mil dólares por el tiempo que trabajaron sin ser pagados mientras eran transportados al y del trabajo en vehículos de la empresa en el condado de Monterey.

      El arreglo llega tres años después de que la Suprema Corte de California determinó que el transporte obligatorio determinado por el empleador tiene que ser pagado.

      "Los derechos de los trabajadores del campo deben ser respetados. Su tiempo en los campos debe ser valorado. De esto se trata", dijo Arturo Rodríguez, presidente de la UFW.

      Felicitando a los demandantes por el acuerdo logrado, Rodríguez dijo que "ellos fueron solidarios porque valoraron su trabajo y su tiempo. Su coraje hará más fácil a que otros trabajadores insistan en que se cumplan sus derechos legales en el valle de Salinas y en todo el estado".

      La Opinión no pudo recabar la reacción de Ocean Mist en Castroville hasta el cierre de la edición.

      Alrededor del mismo tema aún se ventila una demanda de más de mil trabajadores del campo en la planta D'Arrigo Brothers en Salinas, que también piden recibir pago por el tiempo en que viajaron al trabajo.

      La acción legal que motivó el acuerdo fue iniciada en diciembre de 2001 por un grupo de 22 trabajadores que trabajaban entre ocho y 22 años para Sea Mist Farms y Sea Breeze Harvesting, los que, según la UFW, acudieron en busca de ayuda del sindicato. Ambas empresas, con sede en Castroville, son afiliadas de Ocean Mist. La demanda se refirió a un período entre 1997 y 2001.

      La UFW anunció también esta semana que después de tres años, casi 1,000 trabajadores de las fresas en el norte de California que laboran para la empresa Coastal Berry de Watsonville votaron por incorporarse al sindicato. Tres años atrás, los trabajadores rechazaron la sindicalización y prefirieron seguir siendo representados por el comité local de empleados de Coastal Berry


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