After the death of a worker by covid-19 and the contagion of a quarter of its workforce, Primex Farmers, a pistachio and almond processing company located in Wasco, California, fired about 40 employees who had complained about the conditions of insecurity, according to a complaint processed by the state attorney general’s office.
The case is under investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office and the United Farmers Workers (UFW) union, to which the sacked workers belong, has filed a lawsuit with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Problems for Primex Farms company workers began last June, when a coronavirus outbreak affected some employees.
According to Armando Elenes, UFW secretary-treasurer, María Hortencia López, 57, a Mexican immigrant worked until June 10 at the company located in the Central Valley of California.
Elenes said that María Hortencia López, from Guanajuato, Mexico, He developed symptoms of pneumonia and died on July 14 at a San Joaquin hospital from complications after contracting the coronavirus.
The union leader added that a second worker, Eustolia Oropeza, 55, who also tested positive, was withdrawn from life support and sent home to receive palliative care from her children.
The lawsuit, of which they delivered a copy to Univision Noticias alleges “unlawful retaliation for coordinated union activities” against employees who asked for health protection during the coronavirus pandemic.
Primex Farmers ‘management did not respond to a request for an interview with Univision Noticias about the workers’ complaints, working conditions, or the NLBR lawsuit.
Prosecutor Becerra investigates
A UFW statement indicates that a census conducted among Primex Farmers workers shows that 99 people who work there or their relatives tested positive for the coronavirus: 42 adults and 25 children, one of them an 11-month-old infant, for a total of 166 people related to the company, which employs 400 people at its packaging center, mostly immigrant women.
In a written response sent to Univision Noticias, Prosecutor Becerra’s office said: “Right now, workers across our state and country are facing two crises: financial and health.”
“Our fight for public safety, workers’ rights and economic equity has never been as critical as it is now,” he added in the reply. ¨ “Reports of transmission (of coronaviruses) in the workplace, even among agricultural employers like Primex they are deeply disturbing. “
The answer concludes: ¨ “While we cannot comment on any particular investigation, the workers and their families should know that they are not alone in this fight. We are closely following the market and hope that employers in our state fully meet their responsibilities and obligations to provide health and safety to workers. “
“It’s horrible what has happened,” Elenes told Univision Noticias. “It’s also terrible that designated essential workers are being treated as disposable people.”