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Dan Charles/NPR

WENATCHEE - Two Wenatchee apple farms are reportedly suing the U.S. Department of Labor over a mandate that “unexpectedly” increases pay thresholds for agricultural workers. KAPP-TV published an article about the July 24 decision. According to the TV station, the department notified growers that they would immediately have to start paying workers an additional 97 cents per hour.

Growers argue that the boost in pay will have a negative impact on their business. KAPP-TV reports that according to court documents, the lawsuit claims that “enforcing this $0.97 per hour base wage rate jump will cause [farms] to suffer irreparable harm and create an unsustainable increase in labor costs for the 2019 apple harvesting season and into the future.”

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington by McDougall and Sons INC. and Columbia Fruit Packers INC. KAPP-TV reports that the new wage was calculated using an annual survey of agricultural employees in the state. The lawsuit contests that the survey did not represent the actual pay at most farms.

"[The new rate] was the result of an inadequate and procedurally deficient sampling and inaccurate extrapolations of data from what appears to be an extreme minority of apple producers and farm labor apple harvesters," the lawsuit said.

The courts are being asked to put a 'hold' on the order until the parties come to a compromise. 

(2) comments

Desert Dweller

Like most things a few bad apples have ruined it for everyone else. When I was farming apples most of the really good pickers were making over $18 dollars and hour with some making $25 an hour. yes there were some making considerably less but everyone was paid minimum wage at least. Mind you this was 15 years ago, let the government set some regulations and the price of food will definitely go up and the smaller operations will go out of business leaving the corporate farms to feed us as the economics of scale dictate.

wengma

It is not unexpected that those who make their living off the labor of the poor would howl so loudly when ordered to pay a more fair wage. They know they'd be out of business entirely without these dependable people who work such long hours with no benefits. The days of The Grapes of Wrath are over. Fair wages for a day's work is not a new idea. To try to cheat a man of his labor for your own personal gain is reprehensible. I hope the growers come to realize where their choice should be.

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