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Who Picked the Grapes in Your Fruit Bowl?: A Look at Industrial Farm Workers’ Rights

By Rachel Gelman, Hazon Summer Food Intern

Industrial farm workers have been notoriously mistreated by large agricultural companies for years. Three out of every five industrial farm workers have incomes below the poverty level, and many are undocumented immigrants who are convinced that they do not have the same employment rights as citizens and thus are more susceptible to mistreatment. There are, in fact, laws in place that protect these immigrants and stipulate that they must receive the same treatment as workers who are American citizens, but these laws are consistently violated. Factory farms that produce meat are infamous for mistreating their workers and forcing them to work in extremely hazardous and harmful conditions. However, there are also some industrial crop farms that treat their workers just as poorly.

Giumarra Vineyards is an example of an industrial crop farm where workers have been repeatedly mistreated. Giumarra Vineyards, also known as Nature’s Partner, is a farm that produces nearly ten percent of all table grapes in America. As the largest table grape grower in America, they employ almost 2,500 workers, many of whom have dealt with consistent mistreatment from the company. The workers are paid extremely low wages and are often forced to work long hours in extreme heat with little or no access to water or shade. In one testimonial, a worker explained that she was afraid to ask for water because her supervisor had sent workers home without a full day’s pay when they asked for a water break. The company also sets very high quotas for picking and packing the grapes that the workers must meet in order to keep their jobs. These quotas are not adjusted, even in extreme heat or in the event of crop failure. Some workers even described how the foreman had made them race against their co-workers in order to avoid getting suspended, and some described being forced to continue working while the fields were being fumigated. So far two workers have died of heat exhaustion, but Giumarra still refuses to change their unlawful handling of their employees. There is a class action lawsuit that is currently being filed against Giumarra for this mistreatment, and the federal government is suing Guimarra through the Equal Opportunities commission for the alleged sexual harassment of a 17-year old employee. The United Farm Workers of America recently started a campaign to fight against this mistreatment. To learn more about Giumarra, read the farm worker’s testimonials, and sign the Giumarra/Nature’s Partner Pledge to demand better treatment of the Giumarra farm workers, visit the United Farm Workers website at

By participating in the Hazon CSA program, you can help to eliminate some of this mistreatment. Hopefully the example of Giumarra will encourage you to get to know the CSA farmers and farm workers who bring your food from the field to your pick-up site. Supporting these farms instead of the ones that treat their farmers poorly can make a huge difference.