Premiere Raspberries ordered to honor union contract

Decision means 15 percent raise, benefits increase

WATSONVILLE — The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (CARB) on Aug. 29 ordered Watsonville-based Premiere Raspberries LLC to honor a contract approved by its workers, ending a yearlong dispute and setting the employees up for salary and benefits increases.

The decision means a 15 percent pay increases for its workers, in addition to increases to health and pension, and other benefits, according to United Farm Workers of America, the union that represents the workers.

A representative at Premiere Raspberries referred media calls to attorney Ana Pulido. Pulido did not return a call seeking comment.

Premiere was also ordered to pay its approximately 550 workers the difference between the wages and benefits they did receive and what they would have earned under their UFW contract, the UFW said.

The contract was approved last year by a state mediator after protracted negotiations.

The three-year union contract includes 15 percent pay raises over three years; family medical, dental and vision benefits; eight paid holidays a year and three paid days for funeral leave; paid vacations; 25 cents per hour contributions to the union pension plan; paid jury duty; a grievance procedure; job protection; and immediate overtime pay after eight hours a day for all workers.

A UFW-sponsored state law enacted in 2016 provides farm workers in California with eight-hour overtime, but it is phased in over four years starting in 2019.

 Premiere raspberry 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 twice in December. The company lawyer responded on Dec. 29, informing the union the firm would not negotiate pending a judicial review, according to the UFW.

When the workers voted to become part of the UFW, Premiere alleged that the union offered financial incentives, and made immigration-related threats if they did not vote yes, according to the UFW.

The UFW denied the allegations, and the ALRB dismissed them, citing insufficient evidence.


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