On June 9, Santa Maria farmworkers from Rancho Laguna Farms made a second attempt to submit a petition to Driscoll’s, a berry seller directly supplied by Rancho Laguna. The petition asks Driscoll’s to pressure the Santa Maria-based supplier to increase workers’ pay by 25 cents per box, address safety and health concerns related to COVID-19, and stop retaliation toward workers who voice their concerns.
PHOTO BY MALEA MARTIN
THUMBS UP FOR CHANGE José Luis Ramírez Carrera gives a double thumbs-up after successfully delivering a petition to Driscoll’s that demands higher wages and better treatment for workers at local berry supplier Rancho Laguna Farms.
Workers first attempted to submit the petition
, which then included 75 local workers’ signatures, on May 28. Driscoll’s refused to accept it and insisted that the workers leave the property of its Santa Maria office.
This time around, the workers managed to garner a bit more support and attention with more than 58,000 signatures
collected through an online petition.
On June 9 around 6 p.m., former Rancho Laguna farmworker José Luis Ramírez Carrera carried a stack of white printer paper that stood nearly a foot high. The pages contained every signature from the online petition he and other farmworkers started with the help of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE).
Carrera alleges that after he was fired from Rancho Laguna for speaking out, his last paycheck bounced and he was never able to receive his owed wages. He has since moved on to a new company and is pursuing his own legal action, but continues to lead the organizing effort with his former coworkers at Rancho Laguna.
A Driscoll’s representative was ready at 6 p.m. to accept the petition, and said he would ensure that it would go through the proper channels to be seen and addressed by the company.
“Rancho Laguna farmworkers are in active discussion with owner Larry Ferini about getting a much needed raise,” CAUSE Community Organizing Director Hazel Davalos said after the petition was delivered. “This raise would help essential workers support their families during these trying times. … Larry Ferini is listening to the workers and actively working to change the culture of the company. Workers have a conversation scheduled with Ferini on this Thursday to finalize the terms of this raise.”
A statement written by Driscoll’s promised to monitor the situation as workers finalize their negotiations with Rancho Laguna Farms.
“In addition to the wage dispute, the employees of Rancho Laguna and their representatives have requested a review of their working conditions that speak to their health and safety. … Driscoll’s has swiftly followed up on these concerns that have been raised and will monitor their progress and ensure all commitments are fully implemented,” the statement said.
Former Rancho Laguna worker Carrera told New Times
, with Davalos translating, what this victory means to him.
“I’ve always been a person who holds people in high esteem,” he said. “Seeing all this support has actually helped my self esteem, and I feel so grateful to everyone who supported me.” ∆