Environment & Science

Coachella Valley senior citizen onion farm workers sue over alleged work violations

Workers harvest onions in a Texas field.
Workers harvest onions in a Texas field.

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Two elderly field workers are suing a Coachella Valley onion grower over alleged violations that range from reduced pay to unsafe living and working conditions.

The lawsuit targets Lancaster-based Calandri SonRise Farms, which operates several onion fields in the Coachella Valley.

"Wages far below minimum wage, a failure to provide overtime pay altogether, failure to provide protective equipment," listed off Megan Beaman, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance.

"The growers have allowed workers to sleep and reside in their fields during onion harvest," which, said Beaman, makes the fields farm labor camps. And if they're farm labor camps, they're "required to meet state standards for habitability."

The suit was filed by two workers, one in his late 60s and the other in his early 70s. Beaman said they agreed to become plaintiffs in the case because they’ll retire soon and want to see changes.

“They are fed up [...] and they are done," said Beaman. "They want to make sure future workers are not suffering in the way that they did.”

In a statement, Calandri said it’s always maintained a safe working environment and complies with state and federal wage and hour laws. The plaintiffs are seeking a change in working and living conditions, along with unspecified monetary damages.