SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Farmworkers from Rancho Laguna Farms in Santa Maria are protesting over working conditions during the pandemic. They claim the farm is forcing them to work in unsafe conditions. Rancho Laguna Farms supplies berries to Driscoll's Berries.
“Our goal is to send this to Driscoll's to make sure that they hold Rancho Laguna Farms responsible. Rancho Laguna Farms is covering up COVID cases, not giving enough pay for our workers and retaliating against workers,” said CAUSE organizer Zulema Aleman.
The group suggests that Rancho Laguna managers refuse to help and threaten those that speak out.
“Including calling the sheriff, threatening to call ICE, threatening to replace them with H2A workers,” said Aleman.
Rancho Laguna Farms owner Larry Ferini released a statement to NewsChannel 12 saying the farm is following all COVID-19 prevention protocols and that quote:
“There is a process in place with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to determine the merits of charges that are filed…we intend to fully cooperate with that process…these complaints will be resolved and there will be a clear determination made as to the merits of the charges…”
The group of farmworkers noted that they moved protests to Driscoll's offices because police were called to stop their demonstration at the farm. They told us Driscoll's offices also called the police on their demonstration. They attempted to give a petition signed by workers to the company but were told by a company worker that he could not accept the petition.
“These farmworkers are just asking for the same respect and dignity as any other worker would especially during these times,” said CAUSE Policy Advocate Abraham Melendrez.
Driscoll's Berries responded to our inquiry saying:
"We are aware of a complaint filed with the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board involving one of our independent growers, Rancho Laguna Farms. This government agency provides protections and recourse for workers to address disputes. We fully support this process and await a fair resolution for everyone involved."