By John Munson, Director Oregon Farm Worker Ministry
Two workers active in an effort to form a union were fired over the weekend (August 15 – 16) by Ruby Ridge Dairy owners Dick and Ruby Bengen in Pasco, Washington. Four workers who had circulated pro-union pledge cards were fired in the last few weeks.
Workers report a climate of fear at the dairy, which employs some forty people. They also report that they received less than the wages to which they were entitled, that they were required to work long hours without rest or lunch breaks, were not allowed sick leave with or without pay, and that they were required to use machinery without proper instruction or protection. Bengen, who is vocal in his opposition to the union and who has stated that a union would “take the fun away from diary farming” alleges that the workers were fired for cause.
Several former workers from the dairy have filed a complaint against Ruby Ridge in the Superior Court of Franklin County, Washington.
The union effort was reported in the Tri-City Herald on August 1 and again on August 13, although neither reporter spoke with a farm worker.
Workers and the United Farm Workers Union claim that a majority of workers at Ruby Ridge have signed cards asking for union representation. Bengen denies this and claims to have circulated a letter, signed by a majority of the workers, rejecting the union.
A number of church leaders from the Tri-City region of Pasco, Richland and Kennewick, and from as far as Walla Walla, have offered support of the workers and their right to form a union without intimidation.
Click HERE, to take action in support of these workers.
Visit the OFWM website.