Win $1.7 Million Settlement, More Help Needed
(Beyond Pesticides, October 7, 2005) A Delano, CA-area table grape grower will pay 500 harvesters $1.7 million to settle a federal class action lawsuit arising out of United Farm Workers organizing efforts. The suit charged the employer, Kovacevich "5" Farms, with forcing workers to labor without pay a half hour a day between 2000 and 2003.
The suit, filed in April 2004, resulted from a common practice at Kovacevich, which employs about 350 workers at peak season. Workers were required to show up at 6 a.m. They spent half an hour unloading wheelbarrows and supplies and placing them in vineyard rows so work could start on schedule. That half hour was considered "off-the-clock," or unpaid, time. The suit also charged the company with failing to supply workers with tools necessary to do their work, another violation of state law.
Farmworkers who are exposed to toxic pesticides on an ongoing basis are at greater risk for cancer, birth defects, depression and other diseases, as well as work-related injury. Under current U.S. pesticide law, farmworkers are not treated as equals with the rest of society. Pesticide cancer and other disease risks are permitted to be ten times higher for farmworkers than the general population.
As the farmworkers celebrate this important victory, UFW is asking the public to help other grape workers suffering from the same mistreatment by contacting the California State Labor Commissioner and asking for an investigation and action against other growers who are also breaking the law. According to UFW, Kovacevich is not an isolated case. Violations of state and federal minimum wage and hour laws alleged in the lawsuit are common in the table grape industry.
TAKE ACTION: Today and help protect other vineyard workers who suffer from this common abuse. See the UFW website for more information.