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National faith leaders gather at Well-Pict cooler in Watsonville asking Premiere to honor state-ordered raspberry workers’ union contract

More than 20 religious leaders from across the nation will join about two dozen farm workers at the Well-Pict cooler in Watsonville at 3 p.m. Friday calling on Premiere Raspberries LLC to comply with an Aug. 29 ruling by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board ordering the grower to implement a union contract for its 550 workers. They will form a human billboard line holding up signs outside the Well-Pick plant and attempt to meet with officials from Well-Pick, which distributes all of Premiere’s raspberries. Premiere refused to meet with the religious leaders.

Appealing to Premiere will be faith leaders from across the country, most with their denominations’ national offices, who represent the Episcopal Church; Alliance of Baptists; Church of the Brethren; Disciples of Christ; Sisters of Charity; Loretto Community; Orange County, Calif. Interfaith Committee to Aid Farmworkers; Cumberland Presbyterian; Society of the Sacred Heart; California Church Impact; United Methodist Global Ministries; and National Farm Worker Ministry, which is coordinating the event. Also there will be NFWM Executive Director Julie Taylor and Dominique Aulisio, coordinator of the ministry’s Youth & Young Adult Network, a group of young people championing farm worker rights.

The full Agricultural Labor Relations Board last year soundly rejected Premiere’s refusal to negotiate with the United Farm Workers, affirming a union contract issued by a neutral state mediator. The ALRB ordered Premiere, one of the state’s largest raspberry growers, to honor the agreement. Watsonville-based Premiere was also ordered to pay workers the difference between wages and benefits they did receive and what they would have earned under their UFW contract had the grower bargained in good faith since December 2017.

The three-year union contract laid out in the mediator’s decision and ordered implemented by the ALRB under California’s Mandatory Mediation Law includes 15 percent pay raises over three years; family health benefits; eight paid holidays a year; three paid days for funeral leave; paid vacations; 25¢ per hour contributions to the union pension plan; paid jury duty; a grievance procedure and other benefits.

Premiere workers voted for the UFW in a state-supervised secret-ballot election conducted by the ALRB on Aug. 9, 2017. The UFW requested negotiations with Premiere on Dec. 7 & 20, 2017. The company lawyer responded on Dec. 29, 2017, informing the union that Premiere would not negotiate pending a judicial review.

Who:   More than 20 religious leaders from across the U.S. joining two dozen farm workers.

What: Asking Premiere Raspberries LLC to honor a state-ordered union contract.

When: 3-4 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1, 2019.

Where:  Well-Pict cooler, 209 Riverside Rd., Watsonville 95076.