For Release: August 20, 1997
UFW’s Rodriguez, community activists
ask Driscoll to abide by worker rights pledge
Community and religious leaders will use a Wednesday news conference outside Driscoll Strawberry Associates’ Watsonville headquarters to urge that it honor a much-publicized pledge calling on its contract growers to abide by all applicable laws protecting basic rights for strawberry workers.
Driscoll’s pledge, "In Support of Farm Workers," has been widely distributed and included in full page newspaper ads paid for by the company (see attached): "We require all of our contract growers to abide by applicable laws and regulations governing such conditions and conduct, and will encourage the strawberry industry at large to continue to recognize these basic rights."
The community activists, joined by United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez, will deliver a letter to Driscoll citing three federal lawsuits, a legal action under Proposition 65 and 15 charges filed with the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board accusing the giant strawberry corporation of: * failing to permit breaks for workers and refusing to pay for work performed during unpaid lunch periods; * widespread sexual discrimination; * failing to inform pickers about exposure to a cancer-causing pesticide; * and illegally intimidating, disciplining and firing workers who support the union.
"If Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc. does not take responsibility in enforcing these rights, the words are as worthless as the paper on which they are printed," states the letter signed by a number of area religious and community leaders.
WHO: UFW President Arturo Rodriguez joining community leaders, including Episcopal Rev. Ana Lange Soho; Methodist Rev. Darrell Darling, chair of the Democratic Central Committee for the 29th Congressional District; and Daniel Dodge, Chair of the Latino Affairs Committee of Santa Cruz County.
WHAT: News conference calling on Driscoll to abide by its own pledge to support strawberry workers’ rights.
WHEN: 11 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 20, 1997
WHERE: Driscoll national headquarters, 354 Westridge Dr. (near Harkins Slough Rd.) in Watsonville.
The letter from community activists asks Driscoll what it is doing to "address complaints workers bring directly to your attention?" and whether the firm is "tak[ing] immediate action or forc[ing workers] to go through regulatory agencies, which can take years" to obtain relief. The letter also asks what Driscoll has done "to investigate complaints and correct any violations . . . on the farms with which you contract?" Driscoll is also asked to ‘make public results from its investigations of complaints.
Watsonville-based Driscoll controls fields employing about 5,000 workers, or 25 percent of California’s strawberry pickers.
PENDING LEGAL ACTIONS AGAINST MEMBERS OF DRISCOLL STRAWBERRY ASSOCIATES INC.
Federal class-action lawsuit filed Aug. 7, 1997 in United States District Court, Northern District of California alleging that Reiter Berry Farms Inc. failed to authorize and permit breaks for strawberry workers and that workers were not paid for work they performed during unpaid lunch periods. (Case No. C-97 2O696EAI.)
Federal class-action lawsuit filed April 30, 1997 in United States District Court, Northern District at California alleging widespread sexual discrimination against women strawberry workers at Salinas Berry Farms. (Case No. C-97 20403RMW (SAI))
Federal class-action lawsuit filed April 30, 1997 in United States District Court, Northern District of California against Salinas Berry Farms alleging failure to provide workers with full overtime pay. (Case No. C-97 20404RMW(PVI)).)
A "60-day Notice" filed on March 26, 1997 under Proposition 65 (California Health and Safety Code Section 25249.6) accusing Scurich Brothers and Garrett Farms of violating the 1986 voter-passed statewide initiative by failing to notify their strawberry workers that they are being exposed in the fields to significant levels of the cancer-causing fungicide captan. Captan has been identified as cancer causing by the U.S. government and the state of California. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned captan from use on 42 crops; use is still permitted on. 23 other crops, including strawberries.
Fifteen separate unfair labor practice charges filed mostly in 1997, with the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board that are still being investigated. They accuse Reiter Berry Farms, Salinas Berry Farms, Uyematsu Inc., R&A Uyematsu, Garret Farms and Clint Miller Farms with charges such as intimidating, disciplining, failing to recall, firing, threatening violence against strawberry workers because of their support for the United Farm Workers and using AWA as a front group.
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