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.