Farmworkers win unfair labor practices settlement

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A central California almond and grape grower has been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in a settlement with farmworkers for unfair labor practices, lawyers for the farmworkers said Tuesday.

The settlement requires H&R Gunlund Ranches Inc., of Caruthers, Calif., to pay $915,000 to 82 migratory farmworkers and their attorneys. It is the result of a lawsuit filed in 2009 by California Rural Legal Assistance, which represents the workers.

CRLA attorney Felicia Espinosa said that after legal fees, some $490,000 would be divided among 82 workers depending on when and how often they worked.

"It's a pretty good amount of money," she said. "We hope this encourages other workers to come forward."

Espinosa said the workers would be paid by Christmas.

The lawsuit accused the grower of violating state and federal law, including failing to pay minimum wage and overtime, violations of state rest and meal requirements, and not providing the necessary tools for pruning and tying grapevines.

A telephone call to H&R Gunlund Ranches seeking comment rang unanswered Tuesday night.

CRLA said the workers filed suit after they were fired for complaining that their per-piece pay had dropped dramatically. Some were being paid less than $3 per hour.

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