Munger Bros., out of Delano, California, is the country’s biggest blueberry producer. Now it has been barred from recruiting foreign agricultural guest workers for three years and will have to pay $3.5 million in back wages and penalties. This all is part of a court agreement reached with the US Labor Department.
The reason is that Munger Bros. shunned or failed to adequately recruit US-based workers in favor of foreign guest workers recruited under the federal H-2A visa program, according to the Labor Department. Apart from that, once here, those guest workers weren’t adequately paid and were housed in unsanitary facilities.
The ban and fine are among the harshest penalties imposed this year on California growers, who have recruited record numbers of foreign laborers. Munger and its affiliated companies, Washington-based Sarbanand Farms and Crowne Cold Storage, based in Stockton, did not contest the allegations, according to the Labor Department.
The charges centered on several hundred workers recruited through a Mexico-based labor contractor to pick and pack berries for Munger’s network of agricultural operations in California and Washington.