From Yakima-Herald.com, 21 May 2011.
ZILLAH, Wash. — Farm workers who were laid off by a Zillah grower in 2008 and replaced with foreign guest workers are eligible for $1,075 apiece under a settlement approved last week in U.S. District Court in Yakima.
More than 100 workers who file a claim by July 5 will be entitled to split $143,000 in damages approved by federal Judge Lonny Suko.
The settlement is the result of a lawsuit filed by local workers against ACL Farms and Washington Farm Labor Source, an Othello-based labor contractor. In the case, which became a class-action lawsuit, workers claimed their jobs were unlawfully given to H-2A workers.
Growers can recruit H-2A workers to the United States under a special visa if they can first show there are not enough local workers to harvest the crop.
Vicente Rodriguez and his wife of Granger had hoped for a full season of work at ACL Farms, which is near their home. But they were laid off in the middle of the cherry season and not informed work was available through the apple harvest, according to their lawsuit, brought by Columbia Legal Services, a legal-aid group.
“It is important for local workers to stand up for our rights so we don’t lose our jobs in the future,” Rodriguez said in a news release issued Friday.
Lori Isley of Columbia Legal Services said the entire situation could have been avoided had the workers been told about the available jobs.
“We’re hopeful our clients’ courage in coming forward will result in this positive change for the future,” Isley said.
A hearing for final approval of the settlement is scheduled for July 18.
Farm workers who worked for ACL in 2008 are encouraged to contact Columbia Legal Services for more information. The number is 1-800-631-1323, ext. 201.