SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — Workers at Ostrom Mushroom Farm here turned in a petition with signatures of 200 current and former workers June 22 calling on bosses to “provide a workplace free from threats, excessive pressure, harassment, and retaliation.”
“We have an elected committee of 10 that meets to decide our next steps,” Ostrom worker José Martínez told the Militant at his home July 10. “We have also been gathering signatures outside the Fiesta Foods grocery store to win public support. We have had some meetings of 50 workers in the local park.”
The workers turned in the petitions following a rally and march by 100 workers, supporters and representatives of the United Farm Workers union.
Bosses recently raised the minimum quota for pickers from 65 pounds of mushrooms a day to more than 70, which workers say is unreasonable. Martínez said that Ostrom dropped the quota to 50 pounds after the march and the petition was delivered.
The committee is winning co-workers to sign cards to join the UFW.
In an attempt to divide the workers, Martínez said, Ostrom is bringing in “guest workers” through the government’s H-2A immigration program.
“They say there are not enough workers locally, but this isn’t true,” he said. “I have nothing against the visa workers, they are just like us.”
Mushroom worker Ramón González told the Yakima Herald-Republic that Ostrom often imposes mandatory overtime with no prior notice. That’s especially difficult for workers with children, Victoria Rudy, a UFW representative, told the paper.
When asked about farm conditions an Ostrom spokesperson told the Militant it had “no comment at this time.”