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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 23rd, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 52

Farmworkers receive payment as part of settlement agreement

By Malea Martin

Months after a farmworker strike ended in alleged employer retaliation and an ensuing investigation by the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), more than 200 farmworkers received compensation on Feb. 21 as part of an informal settlement agreement with their employer, Rancho Laguna Farms.

The dispute started in May 2020, when Rancho Laguna farmworkers went on strike to seek higher wages. Workers were allegedly fired for engaging in the strike, a legally protected activity. After gathering more than 60,000 signatures on a petition, workers successfully negotiated with Rancho Laguna to secure a raise in June, but the allegations of unfair retaliation remained unresolved. 

The Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) filed an unfair labor practice charge with the ALRB, the agency that administers the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, on behalf of the workers involved in the May strikes. ALRB attorneys went forward with the investigation and worked out an informal settlement agreement with Rancho Laguna in December 2020, ALRB Director of Communications Daniela Ramirez told the Sun

“The remedies that were agreed upon were the compensation as well as supervisor training, posting at the job site, and a reading to some of the Rancho Laguna employees,” Ramirez said.


COMPENSATED
A couple hundred farmworkers received checks Feb. 21 as part of an informal settlement agreement with their employer, Rancho Laguna Farms.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CENTRAL COAST ALLIANCE UNITED FOR A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

The monetary portion of the informal settlement agreement came to fruition Feb. 21, when 212 farmworkers received, in total, nearly $30,000 to compensate for potential economic losses from the alleged strike retaliation. 

“We worked with the ALRB,” Rancho Laguna Farms owner Larry Ferini told the Sun. “We thought it was better to work with them and help discover what the problems were, or the issues.”

CAUSE Policy Advocate Rebeca Garcia told the Sun that the check distribution was “a day full of excitement and relief.”

“Many of the farmworkers lost a whole day of wages [when striking], and getting that money back meant a lot to them to help pay for rent, groceries, child care,” Garcia said, adding that it was “an encouraging day to remember that when people stand up and say something they can have a positive resolution.”

In addition to the compensation, the agreement requires Rancho Laguna to provide its employees with information about the settlement as well as their rights under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, according to an ALRB statement. Rancho Laguna also agreed to let the ALRB provide a training to its supervisors on workers’ rights.

Ferini said he is working to improve information accessibility for his workers.

“A lot of our employees speak different dialects of the Mixtec language,” he said. “So we spent a lot of time finding interpreters so that we can really talk to all of our people and reduce, I think, what was frustration. … We just wanted to move forward and expend our energies on improving relations with our people, with our employees.”

Ramirez from the ALRB said her agency will ensure that all aspects of the informal settlement are implemented.










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