Dairy workers facing retaliation

August 26, 2009

PASCO, Wash.--Workers at the Ruby Ridge Dairy here are taking their fight to form a union to court in the face of reprisals from management.

During the week of July 27, representatives of the United Farm Workers (UFW) approached the owners of Ruby Ridge Dairy to discuss union representation for the dairy's workers, after several workers contacted the union with concerns about wages, hours, health and safety.

Ruby Ridge owner Dick Bengen refused to talk about union representation and told the local Tri-City Herald newspaper that he doesn't want a union representing his employees because it "takes the fun away from dairy work." He added that the majority of Ruby Ridge workers don't want a union.

But that is not true, according to Anna Reynoso, lead regional organizer for the UFW based in Hermiston, Ore., who stated that the majority of Ruby Ridge workers have signed cards authorizing the formation of a union.

In response to the UFW visit, Bengen fired four pro-union workers. On August 11, 14 workers filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Superior Court demanding that the fired workers be rehired, and that workers be compensated for unpaid hours worked, denial of rest and lunch breaks and intimidation.

Bengen has responded to requests by the UFW and supporters to rehire the workers by firing four more workers. Altogether, 20 percent of the workforce has been fired since the initial UFW visit.

Worse, workers allege that Bengen has threatened workers with a gun. One Ruby Ridge worker said, "In reality, we're all scared to risk our lives because Dick will shoot us with his weapon."

It seems that Bengen wants his workers to understand the meaning of "under the gun."

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