Sun Valley Floral Farms let go of 283 undocumented workers today after receiving a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week indicating that the employees — from flower pickers to management-level staff — were not eligible for employment in the United States.
I had just led around 700 workers at Dart Container in Corona California through the National Labor Relations Board NLRB process of becoming a union bargaining committee in 2002. Mostly Latino workers. It was their right through the National Labor Relations Act to organize without the fear of reprisal regardless of their immigration status. They were successful in their campaign and I was blessed to lead the largest manufacturing union victory in the nation in a decade.
Word got around in the Latino community and I was contacted about organizing an manufacturing outfit of 500 workers in Moreno Valley called Thor Industries that made recreational vehicles. I and Corona Latino workers from Dart had meetings with workers to lead them through the process of becoming union. When we were in the process of having union authorization cards signed, the Thor company decided to use the immigration hammer. They told all workers to bring in their "green" cards on a Monday to prove their US residence. Hundreds of workers were now out of a job, and their only recourse was to have me lead them through the process of protection through the NLRB. How many of those workers out of 500 do you think stepped forward to testify against Thor? You guessed right, 0.
The process is uneven and unfair.
Sun Valley President and CEO Lane DeVries met with his entire staff this afternoon and shared the “shocking” news with them. In a phone conversation today, DeVries described the meeting as “heart-warming and frustrating.”
As for the 283 workers who are now jobless, he said, “It really stinks. It’s a raw deal. It’s very sad for everyone. These people bought houses, bought cars, spent money at the Bayshore Mall. This is not good for this community.”
And it’s bad news for Sun Valley too. “The heart and the soul of our team is getting ripped out,” he said. “The heart and soul of our company is no longer with us.
Some of the workers who were let go today had been with Sun Valley for 17 years, DeVries said.
Mario Meza, general manager of Spanish-language radio station KNCR in Fortuna, told the Journal today that he has received a steady stream of calls from anonymous community members about the layoffs since last Friday .
I know there are many in the community who feel these workers are getting what they deserve. But when you are talking about workers with nearly 20 years of service and above the board citizens contributing taxes in the form of Social Security and Federal and State Taxes for nearly 20 years. Shouldn't we have an amnesty program in place for those? Just a bad situation.
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