Largest U.S. Blueberry Producer, Based in Central California, Fined $3.6M for Immigrant Worker Abuses

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California farmworkers are seen in this undated photo. (Credit: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California farmworkers are seen in this undated photo. (Credit: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

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The country’s biggest blueberry producer has been barred from recruiting foreign agricultural guest workers for three years and will have to pay $3.5 million in back wages and penalties as part of a court agreement reached with the U.S. Labor Department.

Munger Bros., based in Delano, Calif., shunned or failed to adequately recruit U.S.-based workers in favor of foreign guest workers recruited under the federal H-2A visa program, according to the Labor Department. Once here, those guest workers weren’t adequately paid and were housed in unsanitary facilities.

The ban and fine are among the harshest penalties imposed this year on California growers, who have recruited record numbers of foreign laborers. Munger and its affiliated companies, Washington-based Sarbanand Farms and Crowne Cold Storage, based in Stockton, did not contest the allegations, according to the Labor Department.

The charges centered on several hundred workers recruited through a Mexico-based labor contractor to pick and pack berries for Munger’s network of agricultural operations in California and Washington.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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