A win for farmworkers

After a year of discussions with farmworker advocates CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy) and MICOP (Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project) and local ag companies Reiter Affiliated Companies, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce and Brokaw Nursery, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved, 3-2, on Tuesday, June 6, the Ventura County Farmworker Resource Program. Supervisors Steve Bennett, District 1; Linda Parks, District 2; and John Zaragoza, District 5, voted in favor; Supervisors Kelly Long, District 3, and Peter Foy, District 4, opposed it. Several local growers and local organizations supported the initiative as well. The board will allocate up to $200,000 to fund the program next fiscal year.

“This was the result of a coalition built over the last two years to advocate for improved labor conditions for farmworkers that began with CAUSE research surveying hundreds of local farmworkers finding far too many of our community members facing wage theft, extreme overwork, and health and safety risks,” said Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director of CAUSE. “At the same time, the agricultural industry is facing a severe labor shortage due to declining immigration resulting from harsher federal enforcement and long-term economic and demographic changes in Mexico.”

According to Zucker, the program will provide outreach and education to the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 farmworkers in Ventura County about their legal protections, help them to direct informal resolution of issues with their employers, such as missing wages or safety risks, and assist them in navigating the complex maze of administrative agencies to file complaints.