Farmworkers from Wonderful Citrus hit the picket line for the fourth straight day today.
They initially started the strike to protest a pay cut they received Friday. Since then the company has restored the workers’ pay to what it was. Still, the strike continues, as farm workers demand a pay increase and what they say would be better work conditions.
It’s day four and the picket line isn’t getting any weaker. Hundreds of farm workers continue to protest for better work conditions and more pay.
“I don’t think they see how hard the work is,” said Sara Garcia, protesting farm worker. “I don’t think they appreciate us. Right now they don’t even care. They don’t even come down here to see if we could reach an arrangement. They just don’t value us.”
The protest started after the company cut $5 off their pay. For every one of these boxes they filled with fruit, they earned $53.
“It’s not easy,” said Garcia. “Sometimes there’s not enough tangerines in a tree. Sometimes we have to go around and pick from 30 trees to fill a box.”
They would now be earning $47 per box. An unfair pay cut they say.
“We’re breaking our backs for those $15, $20 extra bucks that we’re making,” said Garcia.
An extra few dollars that Garcia says goes a long way.
“I have a son,”said Garcia. “Everyday, I take him to his baby sitter, she charges me $15. I can use that money to pay her, the extra $5 or $10 I make.”
According to Wonderful, the pay adjustment was because of the transition in harvest from clementines to mandarins. The company said because clementines are smaller, workers were paid a premium for harvesting. Now, that it’s mandarin season they’re back to regular prices.
But, after three days of protesting, the company agreed to reverse the pay cut on Sunday in exchange for their employees to come back to work. But not everyone did Monday.
Their protest continued Monday morning. Standing outside of wonderful they demanded, an additional $2-$7 raise per box, paid gas mileage and better tools to work with.
Farm workers I spoke to told me they have agreed to meet again tomorrow to plan their next move.
It’s important to note that these are contracted employees. They did not benefit from the raise wonderful employees recently received.