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Wasco farmworkers strike after dozens have virus

Posted at 3:58 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 12:32:32-04

WASCO, Calif. (AP) — A union official says a group of about 50 farm workers at a California pistachio farm have gone on strike, demanding free face coverings, gloves and information from the farm's owner.

A United Farm Workers official said workers were picketing Thursday outside Primex Farms in the central California city of Wasco after they said they heard from a media report that dozens of their coworkers tested positive for the coronavirus.

The workers' demands also include better sanitation measures and more information from the farm. It grows pistachio nuts, other nuts and dried fruits.

Primex released a statement to 23ABC saying its employees did not participate in a strike. They said the demonstration was a mixture of employees and non-employees. Primex said the 10 employees out Thursday morning were just "practicing their right to have their voices heard."

Recently, Primex has experienced a number of employees testing positive for the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, an employee who did not follow Primex guidelines and traveled outside of the United States contracted the virus. As you can understand, Primex cannot control the circumstances or monitor what employees are doing outside on their own time. Primex is known as one of the cleanest plants in the industry. Despite going above and beyond OSHA and CDC guidelines in cleaning and disinfecting and providing masks and other personal protective equipment, some other employees contracted the virus. We are closing the plant from tomorrow Friday 6/26 to Monday 6/29 and have implemented a cleaning task force to ensure the facility is COVID-19 free. We have also hired an onsite mobile testing facility who will be at Primex on Monday 6/29 to offer testing to all our employees at no cost to them. If the employees test negative they can come back to work and if they test positive with no symptoms, they need to self-quarantine for 5 days before they get retested and if negative can come back to work. We are monitoring all employee temperature before they start working. Any employee who tested positive has been put on paid sick leave. As an essential business, Primex expects to resume normal operations in the near future. We know this for a fact, by working together, we will overcome the COVID-19.

Primex said it was closing over the weekend for a cleaning and offering workers free testing.