500 job losses with Ventura ag biz, Oxnard manufacturer closures
By Chris O'Neal 10/03/2013
The only thing growing at Ventura’s California Mushroom Farm now is the unemployment line. Facing a shutdown more than a month ago, 400 of the company’s employees were laid off and told to look elsewhere for employment.
After 76 years in business, the California Mushroom Farm closed on Sept. 16 for what appeared to be a temporary work stoppage, but became a permanent closure. Brothers Chuck and James Ciarrocchi became owners of the plant with four others in 2011 and had originally said that the plant closed due to a major buyer’s inability to pay its bills.
At the same time, Oxnard’s Accurate Metal Solutions announced that it would be ending operations on Nov. 16. As a result, 100 employees will be released into the unemployment market.
City Manager Mark Watkins says that the California Mushroom Farm’s site is fully compliant with city standards, referencing the supposed compost heap that may or may not have caught fire at one point in the factory’s history. The loss of jobs, however, is an issue that doesn’t sit well with the city.
“We’re always sorry to see anyone lose their job,” said Watkins. “They were good-paying UFW [United Farm Workers] positions. They were quality positions.”
Many of the California Mushroom Farm’s employees held long-term permanent positions, some making careers of it for generations. Employees were given paid holidays, raises and benefits, rarities in the farm-working field.
After the layoff, the UFW’s Oxnard headquarters fielded questions from the newly unemployed, even giving emergency rations for the affected families for whom finding work now is a tough task. Most local farms have completed packing and picking for the year, leaving the employees to wonder what jobs will become available.
In the distant future, Walmart will be opening two locations that could offer a spate of employment, approximately 265 jobs by early 2014, but in the meantime there is no gauge on when or if the former CMF employees can find long-term steady positions such as they once enjoyed.
The Reporter reached out to the California Mushroom Farm’s sister site in Avondale, Penn., but was offered no comment.