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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pay is key issue in Yakima County fruit plant worker strikes

Workers from Columbia Reach Pack continue to strike in front of the business on River Road on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Yakima. (Evan Abell / AP)
Workers from Columbia Reach Pack continue to strike in front of the business on River Road on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Yakima. (Evan Abell / AP)
Associated Press

YAKIMA, Wash. – Negotiations between two separate fruit packing companies in Yakima, Washington and their employees are at a standstill over compensation.

Employees at fruit packing companies Matson Fruit and Columbia Reach Fruit have demanded higher pay since the strikes started last month, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

In an email to the Herald-Republic on Monday, Matson Fruit co-owner and company manager Jordan Matson said the company has focused on expanding safety measures in response to new guidance released last week by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s office amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Compensation is still the sole issue in negotiations, Matson said.

“We have pledged to evaluate their pay concerns and will have answers to them prior to July 17,” he said. “Conversely, the protesters want a guaranteed pay raise. This is simply something we cannot guarantee, given the current turmoil in national and international markets.”

Employees at Columbia Reach Fruit have also said compensation is a key issue but owners have not yet meet with striking workers.

Workers’ committee member Rosalinda Gonzalez said the company emailed an offer to the committee Tuesday but that the offer declined to provide hazard pay after workers had requested an additional $1 an hour.

The company instead proposed a bonus program where workers would have to work hundreds of hours before the end of the year to qualify, Gonzalez said.

Employees at both companies have argued that other companies in the state have provided some form of extra compensation to their workers, such as hazard pay or an “appreciation” bonus.

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