VENTURA, Calif. – County Supervisors Steve Bennett and John Zaragoza hosted a Farmworker Labor workshop at the County Government Center in Ventura on July 20. The workshop was organized to clarify reports of poor working conditions for farmworkers in Ventura County.
“Many cases of wage theft and harassment go unnoticed because farmworkers don’t report the violations for fear of retaliation,” said Zaragoza. “This is why we are here tonight, to find out what is happening and how we can assist farmworkers to communicate with the proper authorities without fear of doing so.”
About 300 members from the public attended the two-hour meeting, filling up the Board of Supervisors Chamber and Main Plaza lobby. The meeting was also broadcast live. Various organizations who attended demonstrated with signs advocating for farmworkers and racial justice groups. Also in attendance were local growers, County officials and department heads, and aides to state and federal legislators.
Advocates for farmworkers, state and federal agricultural regulators, and advocates for growers engaged in a lively discussion and related experiences addressing farmworkers reporting violations of wage theft, sexual harassment, lack of overtime pay, portable restroom conditions, breaks, and time off.
“There is a wide disagreement between employers and farmworkers on how violations are reported to the various agencies at the state and federal level,” said Bennett. “We wanted to know how it all works in Ventura County. We as Supervisors understand there is a trust issue going on, but how to fill that gap is very important, including the fear farmworkers may have in connecting with the very agencies that can investigate their concerns.”
Supervisors Bennett and Zaragoza plan to report back to the rest of the Board of Supervisors about the workshop at a future Board meeting.