Wonderful Company citrus workers end 4-day strike after the Resnicks agree to restore pay cuts

By Dan Bacher | 

A four-day strike by San Joaquin Valley citrus workers against the largest orchard fruit grower in the world ended in victory today, January 14.

A group of 1,800 Kern County citrus harvesters agreed to end their four-day strike after the Wonderful Company, the corporation that produces Halos mandarins, agreed to restore pay cuts amounting to $1 to $2 an hour that were imposed on workers last week.

“Workers say they still have other grievances to resolve, but will return to their jobs,” according to a press release from the United Farm Workers Union, (UFW).

The Wonderful Company is owned by Beverly Hills agribusiness billionaires Lynda and Stewart Resnick, two of the most powerful people in California water politics. The Resnicks are among the biggest promoters of the environmentally destructive Delta Tunnels and efforts to eviscerate protections for salmon, Delta and other species and allow more pumping of Delta water to corporate agribusiness interests.

“Farm workers were upset about the pay cut unilaterally imposed by the Wonderful Company farm labor contractor,” said United Farm Workers Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes. “Workers asked the United Farm Workers for help and after four days on strike they decided to go back to work after the company agreed to restore their previous higher pay rate. This is another example of how when farm workers organize together to defend themselves, we win.”

The Resnicks, major contributors to candidates and committees in both the Democratic and Republican parties, announced in December they would start paying a $15 an hour minimum wage for their full time California farm workers starting January 1.  

“Our dedicated and hard-working employees are our greatest asset, and the reason for our tremendous success as a company,” said Stewart Resnick, chairman and president, The Wonderful Company. “This move firmly positions The Wonderful Company as the employer of choice in California’s Central Valley, and we encourage others in the agriculture industry to follow our lead.”

However, a week and a half later, the four-day strike followed when workers say a Wonderful Company labor contractor reduced bin rates (piece rates paid for harvesting citrus) by $5 a bin, from $53 to $48.

“This results in a reduction of $1 to $2 an hour since most pickers produce 1.5 to three bins a day,” said  Elenes. “The $15 an hour minimum wage appears to apply to workers who are directly hired by the grower. Farm labor contractors working for the Wonderful Company hired all the striking workers.”

Before the workers ended their strike, the workers at a rally announced that they “stand in solidarity with the United Teachers of Los Angeles and their strike for a fair union contract.” 

Elenes said the strikers were aided by the UFW as they picketed the struck orchards and word of the walkouts spread in large part by workers using social media: https://www.facebook.com/unitedfarmworkers/

The Resnicks, who are known as the Koch Brothers of California, contribute many hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates from both sides of the political aisle and to proposition campaigns so they can continue selling back public water to the public at a huge profit while promoting legislation and other efforts to weaken laws protecting fish, wildlife and water. 

The Resnicks bought water for as little as $28 per acre-foot and then sold it for as much as $196 per acre-foot to the state, according an article by the late Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times on May 23, 2009. The state then used this water to supply other irrigators whose Delta water supply had been previously curtailed. 

“As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan, a MediaNews investigation has found,” according to Taugher.  (www.revivethesanjoaquin.org/...

The Resnicks’ agricultural operations use more water annually than every home in Los Angeles combined, according to an article by Josh Harkinson in Mother Jones magazine on August 9, 2016.   

In November 2018, the Resnicks’ Wonderful Orchards LLC donated $100,000 to Jerry Meral’s unsuccessful Proposition 1 water bond campaign that would have funded projects to benefit the Resnicks and other growers. The Resnicks also contributed $150,000 to Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 1 water bond campaign in the fall of 2014 (www.eastbayexpress.com/...).

Stewart Resnick served on the Board of Advisors of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, made famous for serving as Chancellor when UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper-sprayed students during the Occupy protests in the fall of 2011.  After her resignation from the position in 2016, Resnick continues to sit on the Board of Advisors: chancellor.ucdavis.edu/…

Resnick serves with other corporate leaders such as Riley P. Bechtel, chairman of the board of the Bechtel Corporation, and John S. Watson, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Chevron Corporation, on the Board.

That’s not the only position in the educational system than Resnick holds. Stewart Resnick is a member of the Executive Board of the UCLA Medical Sciences and a member of the Advisory Board of the Anderson School of Management, at UCLA , his alma mater. Resnick holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School. 

For more information about the Resnicks, read my piece here: www.dailykos.com/… or read Josh Harkinson’s excellent piece in Mother Jones: www.motherjones.com/...

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