(UPDATED COVERAGE June 26) Taylor Farms has denied claims by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has been seeking to represent employees at two Tracy, Calif., facilities, that temporary workers were treated unfairly.
Teamsters union general president Jim Hoffa and a state legislator led a rally at Taylor Farms Pacific June 12. Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, called the Tracy site the "ground zero line that represents the war between … the greed of corporations" and fair process.
Hernandez is the author of Assembly Bill 1897, which would bring staffing agencies and other labor contractors, and the companies that turn to them, under new rules.
There are union workers in Taylor Farms plants, but not at the Tracy sites, which were not unionized when acquired in 2005. There are about 1,000 employees in Tracy where the average wage is $11.90 per hour, according to the company.
About half are permanent the rest work through labor contractors SlingShot and Abel Mendoza. Workloads vary by season and by changing customer orders.
"We pay wages that are higher than our competitors, provide regular training, and promote from within the company," Taylor Farms chief operating officer Alan Applonie said in a statement. "We provide contract employees frequent opportunities to become full-time Taylor Farms employees."
Within the past year, more than half of job promotions in Tracy were to contract employees, according to the company.
Taylor Farms has been supporting a count of votes by the National Labor Relations Board in a March union election. The ballots were impounded after the Teamsters withdrew their request to proceed on the second day of voting.
From last fall, when the organizing effort began, until now, the union filed about 70 charges of unfair labor practices. None have had hearings, and 11 were withdrawn, according to Taylor Farms.
"We believe a fair vote was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board," Applonie said. "Taylor Farms is fully prepared to respect the outcome of that vote and supports our workers who want their votes to be counted. Unfortunately, the (board) has been unable to count these ballots since March because the union withdrew its petition to proceed with the election in the final hour of voting."
The union is seeking representation for the workers through Teamsters Local 601.
Elsewhere in the California fresh produce industry, Assembly Bill 1897 has come under some scrutiny.
"There is an extensive farm labor contract network, where they are the employer and they handle the wage and hour issues for the employees," Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League, said in May. "We"re looking at a situation where the liability could blow up on growers and other businesses. The bill would require joint liability between a grower and a farm labor contractor. The grower would be liable for any unpaid wages. It could cause an outpouring of litigation and impact the cost of doing business for table grape growers."