Inspired by the ongoing Allan Brothers strike, other fruit warehouse workers are walking off the job to demand safe workplaces and hazard pay.
By DULCE GUTIÉRREZ
YAKIMA (May 13, 2020) — There is a powerful force among the people in Yakima right now. It’s the force of solidarity and collective power. And it’s spreading as fast as the virus that prompted it.
On May 7, more than 50 workers at the Allan Brothers fruit warehouse in Naches went on strike over inadequate safety precautions and lack of transparency over COVID-19 cases at the facility. Like the meatpacking plants that have gained national attention as virus hotspots, fruit warehouse employees work shoulder-to-shoulder on assembly lines but often lack the personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety measures needed to prevent spread of the this illness. The strikers, who say they’ve heard about co-workers testing positive for COVID-19 through word-of-mouth instead of from their employer, are also calling for hazard pay and paid sick leave.
Today is Day 7 of that strike and the huelga signs and picket lines are still up outside the facility. Familias Unidas por La Justicia (FUJ), which is an independent farmworker union affiliated with the Washington State Labor Council, and Community to Community Development (C2C) are supporting the Allan Brothers strikers with leafleting in the community and social media communications. That support his been meaningful to the strikers, but it also helped spread the word to other warehouse workers.
At noon on Monday, May 11, inspired by the Allan Brothers strike, workers at the Roche Fruit warehouse also walked off their jobs. By 2:15 p.m., their demand for hazard pay of an extra $100 per week ($400 per month) for each worker was met by the employer. This is a significant win for more than 100 workers at Roche.
When FUJ President Ramon Torres and I left the Allan Brothers picketers to witness the Roche strike on Monday, we were immediately and enthusiastically welcomed by strikers who recognized us from Facebook as advocates for the Allan Brothers strikers. And when we returned to the Allan Brothers, strikers there were encouraged by the good news at Roche Fruit.
This is what solidarity is all about — and it’s contagious.
Yesterday, workers at the Jack Frost Fruit warehouse in Yakima and Matson Fruit Co. in Selah also walked off the job to protest unsafe working conditions and to demand hazard pay. And today, two more fruit warehouses planned to strike.
Workers at Jack Frost Fruit in Yakima are on strike, demanding PPE, hazard pay, and education on their rights and the resources available to them. Show solidarity with these #EssentialWorkers who put food on our tables and help spread awareness of their demands! #1u pic.twitter.com/qPIUvrwhQy
— WA State AFL-CIO (@WAAFLCIO) May 12, 2020
The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO stands in solidarity with all of these workers and calls on state and local government agencies to make sure they know and understand their right to a safe workplace. These essential workers are keeping our grocery stores stocked so we can feed our families during this crisis. All of us should join them in demanding hazard pay, paid sick leave, and respect on the job.
SHOW YOUR SOLIDARITY! — You can support these workers by:
2) If you are in the area, sign up for strike support on the picket lines.
¡Justicia para los trabajadores esenciales!
Dulce Gutiérrez is Union, Community & Naturalization Organizer for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Reach her via email.