Under the settlement, farmworkers will be offered jobs for the 2019 season as well as financial compensation for not getting jobs at the orchard in 2018,
Mexican farmworkers who alleged blacklisting after protesting labor conditions can get those jobs back and will receive up to $275,800, under a lawsuit settlement made public this month.
In September 2017, the 18 workers walked off their harvest jobs with Larson Fruit in Grant County after they made complaints ranging from unsafe working conditions to a lack of medical attention to a scarcity of toilet paper. Their action represented a rare flexing of bargaining muscle by foreign guest workers who come to the U.S. under temporary H-2A visas, and Familias Unidas Por La Justicia, a Northwest farmworkers union, assisted the Mexican workers in negotiating a settlement.
The number of H-2A workers in Washington has increased dramatically during the past decade amid a farm- and orchard-labor shortage.
The lawsuit was filed this year in state Superior Court by Columbia Legal Services. It alleged a breach of the settlement agreement when workers were not offered jobs for the 2018 season at Larson Fruit.
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Under the lawsuit settlement reached with the farmworkers union, Larson will offer the workers jobs for the 2019 season as well as financial compensation for not getting jobs at the orchard in 2018, according to a copy of the settlement agreement.
But Larson denies any wrongdoing or liability, and does not recognize Familias as a union, or any legal authority that may claim to act as a bargaining agent for the grower’s employees. The company, despite agreeing to the compensation, does not concede that any wages are owed for 2018.
Joe Morrison, a Columbia Legal Services attorney, praised Larson for reaching the settlement.
Kathy Barnard, an attorney representing the union, said the settlement “sends a strong message that even vulnerable H-2A workers can use the court system to protect their rights.” She called the union a “powerful voice for farmworkers across Washington.”