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UFW files charges against Primex Farms for allegedly firing employees who said company wasn’t protecting them from COVID-19

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WASCO, Calif. (KGET) — A local farming company is accused of firing employees who expressed concerns about the deadly coronavirus outbreak at work.

On Monday, the United Farm Workers union announced it is filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Primex Farms in Wasco. The organization said the company fired employees who complained that the company was failing to properly protect employees from COVID-19.

The UFW said that recently an employee died from COVID-19 and another is not expected to survive. Nearly 100 workers at the pistachio processing company have been infected, the UFW claimed.

“Unfortunately, the company instead of dealing with the problems has chosen to fire the employees in retaliation,” said Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer on the UFW Executive Board.

Primex said the number of its positive cases is actually higher, with 150 employees infected. However, the company said more than half of the employees have returned to work. 

Jesse Rojas, who works in public relations for Primex, called the accusations “completely false” and said the UFW is using the crisis to boost its membership. 

“The company cares 100 percent about its employees, and the overwhelming majority of the current employees are not very happy with the UFW right now,” he said. 

Rojas said Primex has declined to comment on the worker’s death to protect the family’s privacy. 

Angie Nunez, a human resources office manager with Primex, said the company has made many changes to improve worker safety, including face masks, temperature checks and installing plexiglass in parts of the processing plant in Wasco.

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