farm workers

Maria Diaz sorts green bell peppers along an outdoor conveyor belt on a farm 25 miles west of Sacramento, discarding leaves and stems quickly before peppers are swept away by a mini-roller coaster onto a tractor-trailer.

Diaz, a single parent of three, is one of roughly 800,000 farmworkers in California. Under a bill recently passed by the California Legislature, Diaz could collect overtime pay.

Diaz says growers should pay overtime after eight hours. She adds that those extra earnings would help her cover child care.

If you watch a watermelon harvest you may never think about the pink summery fruit again the same way.

Two pickers walk the rows. They bend over and grab the 20-pound gourds and pitch them to a man perched on the side of a dump truck, who heaves them up to another catcher in the truck bed. The pickers have arms like Popeye and the timing of acrobats. They like this crop because the bigger the melons the more they can earn.

Most of us — and by "us," I mean urban and suburban consumers like me — don't usually get to meet the people who pick our apples, oranges or strawberries.

So about a year ago, I decided to launch a series of stories about the people who harvest some of America's iconic seasonal foods. Many of these workers move from place to place, following the seasons.

Farm Contractors Balk At Obamacare Requirements

Feb 9, 2016

Obamacare is putting the agricultural industry in a tizzy.

Many contractors who provide farm labor and must now offer workers health insurance are complaining loudly about the cost in their already low-margin business.

Some are also concerned that the forms they must file with the federal government under the Affordable Care Act will bring immigration problems to the fore. About half of the farm labor workforce in the U.S. is undocumented.

Bellamy Pailthorp Photo / KPLU News

For the second time this month, about 200 berry pickers at a Skagit Valley farm have walked off the job.

The workers are striking over pay for the boxes of blueberries and strawberries they harvest at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington. Many of those berries are sold to Haagen-Dazs for ice cream. The workers in question have been earning $3.50 per a flat of blueberries, which is about 12 pints. They say they can’t pick them fast enough to earn a fair wage.

A Washington state organic farm has been fined $1 million for firing, then rehiring illegal immigrants following a federal audit.

Northwest farm groups are cheering a federal decision this week to dump proposed child labor rules. The Department of Labor decided to withdraw the plan after it received thousands of comments opposing the change. But child safety advocates say the fierce opposition was based on faulty information.

Politicians from farm and ranch country called the regulations an attack on family farms, going as far to say the rules could outlaw chores and 4-H for farm kids.

However, the regulations specifically exempted children working on farms owned or operated by their parents.

Federal prosecutors say a Washington state herb farm forced to fire more than 200 illegal immigrants because of a government audit, rehired dozens of those workers — paid them cash and asked them to work at night — because production began to plummet.