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Posted on Sep 18, 2017

Group of orchard workers goes on strike

A group of 17 orchard workers near Quincy were still on strike Tuesday, their handmade picket signs leaning up against tables and trees, waiting for a response from the company they work for following further talks on Monday afternoon.
The 17 are housed at 22646 Road 6 NW, about eight miles southwest of Quincy, and they work at W&L Orchards, operated by Larson Fruit, of Selah.
It was a peaceful protest. On Monday, while designated spokespersons talked with a company representative at a table about 20 yards away, most of the strikers waited in the shade. Staff from Quincy Community Health Center had brought water and checked the workers’ blood pressure.
At 2 p.m., the session ended, and the workers listened to a report from Ramon Torres of Familias Unidas por La Justicia, of Burlington. They expected to hear back from the company in a couple of hours, but the next day, the workers were still waiting.
Coordinating along with Torres was Edgar Franks from Community to Community Development, of Bellingham. He described the organization as a farmworker advocacy organization. Franks said they were there to help the workers understand their rights, the rules in Washington state and to hear the workers’ stories.
Franks said that he has heard from the workers that six of them had fallen off ladders, were denied medical care and told to get back to work. There were also some complaints about the housing.
Imelda Mariscal, who once worked for the company and was helping the striking workers, said they were being mistreated; there were broken ladders; and, after falls, the workers were not given medical attention. Mariscal said she was seeking additional support for the workers because some of them have family members with serious medical needs.
Larson Fruit did not immediately reply to a request for comment. However, a company official was quoted in The Wenatchee World as saying that the company has been communicating with the workers since their complaints were presented last week.
Reviewing events of the past few days, one of the workers said the crew stopped work Wednesday and Thursday and the company did not negotiate. Among the workers’ concerns were the conditions imposed by the crew chief. There were misunderstandings over how high the bins should be filled and the ticketing system that tracks the harvesting work completed, he said. The worker said he has worked in this area before without incident and has nothing against the company. He said some of the strikers have worked for Larson before without any problems.
They went back to work on Friday, he said, and on Saturday afternoon, three were fired. The workers returned to their strike on Sunday and want the fired workers to be given their jobs back.

By Dave Burgess, qvpreditor@gmail.com

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