Yakima orchards pay back wages to improperly paid workers

by Staff report
| August 20, 2023 1:00 AM

TUMWATER — The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced July 12 that the owners of two Yakima orchards have paid $500,000 in back wages and interest to more than 400 workers.

“Farmworkers do backbreaking work, and they deserve to be paid every dollar they earn,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson in the news release. “We will continue to stand up for farmworkers, and fight to ensure that all workers are paid every dollar they are owed, including interest on the wages they were denied.”

According to the announcement, an L&I found that Rene and Carmen Garcia, who own G&G Orchards Inc. and RC Orchards LLC, had not paid fruit harvesters properly from 2018 to 2021. In 2021, the Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit in Yakima County Superior Court after the Garcias rebuffed extensive efforts to reach a settlement. The news release stated that the parties reached a resolution this spring after mediation.

The release noted several requirements of the orchards in the settlement, including having to change their record-keeping practices and conduct self-audits prepared by a third party every six months through the end of 2024. L&I will attempt to notify each worker owed compensation under the settlement, but the announcement stated that workers employed from 2018 to 2021 can also call (360) 902-4920 to see if they are under the settlement.

In 2020, the Garcias reached a settlement in a separate lawsuit filed by the Seattle-based Northwest Justice Project, according to the announcement. The group filed for back wages on behalf of seven H-2A workers who eventually received $240,000 in wages and damages.