On May 7, 50 workers at Allan Bros fruit packing factory in Naches, Washington, walked off the job demanding hazard pay, paid time off, health protection measures, and greater transparency about coronavirus threats. Ten days later the strike had spread to six Yakima Valley fruit packing houses.

Edgar Franks, political director of Familias Unidas por la Justicia and a member of the Board of Labor Network for Sustainability, is helping support the strikes. Franks said workers at the individual plants were leading the strikes. “Worker committees from each of the fruit packing houses met” to “discuss strategies and also to encourage each other.”

Franks says weak emergency rules for agriculture have broader consequences for Yakima. “If we’re looking to have a healthy, productive economy, it depends on a healthy and viable workforce. If there is nothing being done to protect these workers, it has the potential to crash the whole economy, along with causing a health crisis.”

Workers at the apple packing shed that sparked a wave of strikes in central Washington went back to work on Monday with a written agreement recognizing their workers’ committee. According to Agustin Lopez, a leader of the movement who’s worked in the valley since the mid-1980s, “The most important thing to us is that the company is recognizing our committee as the representative of all the workers. Under the agreement we will continue negotiating for salary increases, better working conditions, and health protections. The agreement means that our rights as workers are respected.” Source »