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Washington state tree fruit worker suing after US Department of Labor decreases harvest wages

A farmer worker from Sunnyside, Washington and his union, “Familias Unidas por la Justicia, AFL-CIO (FUJ), filed a lawsuit and a motion for a temporary restraining order in federal court against the US Department of Labor over lowered piece-rate wages. Typically, tree fruit workers earn -higher- piece-rate wages. quoted the legal advocacy group as saying: “Torres Hernandez and FUJ seek immediate declaratory and injunctive relief for DOL’s role in arbitrarily interjecting an “hourly wage guarantee” concept into Washington’s prevailing wage surveys. The flawed survey methodology, which mirrors changes advocated by the agricultural industry, watered down wages reported by growers; the prevailing wage was determined to be $12 per hour – $18 less than what Plaintiff Torres Hernandez normally earns on piece-rate wages picking cherries by the pound.”

Columbia Legal Services says the flawed survey methodology could reduce poverty-level wages by an additional 30%. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs says the federal government should not be aiding the fruit industry when it has a duty to protect workers from practices that drive down wages. 


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