Following a recent Southern California labor strike of nearly 2,000 subcontracted orange pickers from one of the largest fruit companies in the U.S., Los Angeles wage and hour attorneys are looking even more closely at this industry, wherein an increasingly substantial number of workers are employed by third-party labor contractors, rather than the farm companies themselves. As far as agricultural workers go, those in California enjoy some of the best labor law protections in the country. However, workers employed by these third-party firms are often exempted from some of the required protections they’d otherwise enjoy under state law, including overtime pay.
Much of it comes down to power disparities, the wink-and-nod regulators give to the companies that fulfill demand for undocumented workers and loopholes many farms have long exploited.
This most recent strike began after one of the state’s top citrus producers slashed the price-per-bin pay on mandarins harvested. Previously, they were primarily focused on so-called “clementines,” which are smaller, but then shifted more harvest work to the larger mandarins. The rate-per-bin was dropped from $53 to $48. The company told The Los Angeles Times this was due to a “seasonal shift,” but a farm union spokesman stated employees had always been paid the same per-bin rate, regardless of the variety they were picking. Continue reading