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Driscoll grower faces class action lawsuit

Plaintiff Valentine Leon, UFW Co-Founder Dolores Huerta, announce back pay lawsuit against Driscoll grower.

For Release:
August 7, 1997

11 am news conference

Largest Driscoll grower faces class action suit alleging hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages
Suit: Pickers forced to work ‘off-the-clock’

The largest supplier of Driscoll’s berries, Reiter Berry Farms, has forced hundreds of workers into off-the-clock work for the past four years, according to a class action lawsuit to be filed Thursday, Aug. 7, in San Jose Federal Court.

The suit is being brought independently by Miner, Bamhill & Galland, a national discrimination and employee rights law firm. The firm won $500,000 in backpay for Gargiulo strawberry workers for similar violations. Organizers with the United Farm Workers learned of the work-without-pay allegations and referred workers to the law firm.

WHAT: News conference at 11 a.m. Thursday, August?, with workers, UFW Secretary-Treasurer Dolores Huerta. Copies of the suit will be available.

WHERE: UFW, 519 Main St. (comer of Lake and Main), Watsonville.

Fact sheet: Unpaid work at Driscoll’s largest grower,
Reiter Berry Farms

* The federal class action lawsuit filed Thursday, Aug. 7,1997 against Reiter Berry Farms alleges that workers were forced to work without pay.

* Reiter is the largest supplier of berries for Driscoll Strawberry Associates, with about 33 percent of all acreage for Driscoll berries. Driscoll is the largest marketer of strawberries in the U.S. The company’s growers employ about 5,000 strawberry pickers. While fighting efforts by berry workers to join together and improve their lives5 Driscoll has tried to position itself as a leader in the industry.

* The lawsuit alleges that in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997, Reiter failed to pay its raspberry workers for time worked in preparation for picking, for time worked picking, sorting and packing berries after a whistle was sounded or for time worked on lunch breaks.

* The size of the class is at least Reiter’s current 360 workers and, with former workers, could exceed 500. Lost wages are estimated to exceed $500,000. Lost wages combined with other damages are estimated to exceed $750,000 million.

* The lawsuit is being filed independently of the United Farm Workers by Miner, BarnhiJl & Galland. The employee rights and discrimination firm is nationally known for the Mitsubishi Motors case and the Wall Street securities fraud case against Drexel Bumham.

* The firm is also known for winning $500,000 in backpay for hundreds of strawberry workers at Gargiulo who faced similar off-the-clock work, and for halting the practice at that company.

* The allegations came to light through organizers with The Strawberry Workers Campaign, a union organizing effort of the United Farm Workers and the AFL-CIO.