Baja California Farmworkers To Meet With Officials After Violent Clash
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Some Baja California farmworkers are still on strike despite a 15 percent wage increase offered by growers.
Driscoll's, a fresh berry supplier based in Watsonville, released this statement on Wednesday regarding the continued labor strife in Baja California. Here is the full statement:
"We are disturbed by the recent violence in San Quintin and in no way condone these actions. We urge government officials as well as protesters to maintain a productive dialogue, and to work together to resolve differences in a peaceful manner.
"We cannot stress enough that Driscoll's prioritizes and supports the rights and safety of those workers and their families who grow and harvest our berries, even though they're not employed by Driscoll's.
"We are proud that BerryMex, one of our most trusted growers and largest produce employers in Baja, proactively provided its workers among the highest wages and earning potential in the region, combined with some of the region's best housing options and access to unique medical programs.
"Current media reports, as well as statements shared on social media channels regarding worker conditions are categorically false and inaccurate. We believe in fair and responsible coverage of the facts, and urge people to review BerryMex's updates which are posted here: http://www.berry.net/company-updates/.
"We urge protesters to end the physical intimidation of our growers' employees and allow these workers access to the fields, so that they are able to provide for their families and rebuild their local community."
Baja California farmworkers plan to meet with the state’s lieutenant governor and other officials Wednesday to continue demanding higher wages after a violent clash with police this weekend.
The negotiations began in March as a result of a large strike that slashed production of berries, cucumbers and tomatoes sold in San Diego and other U.S. cities. Growers offered farmworkers a 15 percent increase in their daily wages, which average around 120 pesos, or $8. Hundreds of farmworkers accepted the offer and went back to work. But some are still demanding 200 pesos, or about $13 a day.
The workers were supposed to meet with government officials last Friday. The meeting was canceled and then rescheduled, prompting protesters to gather on a street near the town of Vicente Guerrero on Saturday morning. They stopped farmworkers on their way to work and asked them to join the strike. Police arrived in response to calls from growers, according to local media reports. Those reports say farmworkers threw rocks and set police cars on fire, while police used rubber bullets and tear gas against them.
Videos uploaded to YouTube showed farmworkers with bloody wounds on their heads, backs and stomachs that they claimed were caused by police. The men in one video alleged that the police entered their home and attacked them after the protest.
Protesters said they are considering organizing another protest if negotiations don’t go as planned. Growers have said they can't afford to collectively increase wages any further.
The value of agricultural production in San Quintin is around $450 million a year, roughly half of the total in Baja California, according to the state government. The majority of the region's crops are shipped to the United States. BerryMex, one of the biggest growers in San Quintin, is one of the main suppliers for the well-known berry brand Driscoll's.
Government and industry officials say the damage to crops earlier this spring amounted to tens of millions of dollars.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Driscoll's owns BerryMex. BerryMex is one of Driscoll's suppliers.
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