Things are heating up in the Central Valley where workers at Primex Farms, a pistachio and almond processing plant in Wasco are not only contracting COVID-19 in alarmingly high numbers, they’re also facing retaliation from the company when they complain.
According to a report from the United Farm Workers (UFW) and various news outlets, 150 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since June as well as 49 adult family members and 34 children. At least one worker has tied while a second was sent home from the hospital for palliative care and is not expected to live.
Back in July, employees formed a picket line and held a protest, requesting safety measures including social distancing, personal protective equipment and sick leave payment for infected or exposed employees. The company told Action News that they had “made several improvements including “reducing our capacity down to comply with social distancing, installing dividers and provide masks and protective face shield to our employees.”
Workers say the situation did not improve and they eventually held a virtual press conference. As a result, according to the UFW, dozens of workers employed by a staffing firm were terminated from employment due to a drop in production only to be replaced that same day by new workers.
The UFW has filed unfair labor practice charges against Primex with the National Labor Relations Board. Individuals are also asked to sign a petition demanding Primex to rehire its terminated workers.