Governor Inslee Protecting Washington’s Grapefruit Workers?

  • June 15, 2020

On May 28 Governor Inslee and United Farm Workers Union executive Erik Nicholson announced new rules that will protect farm workers in Washington. Specifically, Governor Inslee noted that he was glad grapefruit workers were going to gain from this “step forward” as he enjoyed a “great grapefruit” that morning. The Governor thanked Erik Nicholson for “crafting” the farm worker rules.

There is something seriously wrong here. First, grapefruit is grown in places like Florida, Texas, Southern California and Mexico––not Washington. Second, the UFW represents fewer than 100 of 165,000 farm workers in Washington state despite Nicholson’s outrageous claim of representing Washington farm workers. Not only that, the union has been rejected by all but less than 1% of farm workers in California where it has operated for decades. Additionally, the union had to pay $2 million to settle claims from their own union employees for retaliation and failure to pay workers, and they face yet another worker claim, not to mention a sexual harassment complaint. 

So why does our Governor turn to a thoroughly discredited California union to write Washington’s farm rules? If he had listened to farmers and growers he would have heard the very strong measures already being taken, many as a result of guidelines beyond government rules from industry groups intent on protecting workers and the harvest. He would have heard what farmers are doing to proactively test workers, quarantine any worker that is ill, and take strong preventive measures––all without the dictates of a union which has one goal and that is to turn public opinion against farmers to force union contracts.

UFW along with the tiny one-farm union FUJ went to court when they failed in forcing the Governor to stop 22,000 essential workers from coming to harvest our fruit crops. Their demands would have taken away beds in the best government approved temporary housing that farmers are required to provide free for guest workers. It would have put far more farm workers at risk as domestic workers drive from other states to harvest crops here. With housing taken away, where would they have gone? FUJ continues to file lawsuits to stop farm workers from working in spite of the UFW “crafted” new rules that are impossible to comply with.

That is exactly the intention of UFW––create rules that are unworkable and impossible, then get compliant reporters to come out and show that farmers are not following the rules and make farmers look bad. The rules they wrote allow the state to shut down any farm that doesn’t comply and they know full compliance with extreme rules is impossible. It is cynical, dishonest and motivated by a single goal of taking money from workers’ paychecks. That’s why farm workers in California and now Washington are resoundly rejecting UFW’s “help” and wage theft.

Apparently by having Nicholson write the rules, Governor Inslee feels good about protecting grapefruit workers. Our message to our Governor: try an apple.

To learn more, watch the video here: