Two Imperial Valley onion workers are fighting back against their employer, saying they've had enough.
Ignacio Villalobos and Adalberto Gomez are suing Lancaster based Calandri Sonrise Farms and several of its labor contractors, claiming that for years, the company forced them to live under degrading conditions, while working the fields.
Megan Beaman, an attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance in the Coachella Valley is representing the plaintiffs.
"They were living basically in their cars, or in tents, or under trees near canals, during the time that they were working for the employers," Beaman said.
Beaman also added that her clients claim they're were being underpaid, receiving $4 an hour for their labor. In California, the minimum wage is $8.
"We do have records for our clients and we expect that we'll attain more during the course of the lawsuit," Beaman said.
The total of unpaid wages has not been calculated, but Beaman told CBS Local 2 she plans to seek wider relief for the remainder of the workforce for their unpaid wages. Sonrise hires workers to travel to it's company owned farms in Los Angeles and Riverside County, including the Coachella Valley, each season to work in onion fields. CBS Local 2 attempted to contact Sonrise Farms, but as of Tuesday afternoon had yet to comment on the allegations.
Beaman believes she has a solid case on her hands.
"We've consistantly identified among the most violations of the law during the harvest season," Beaman said.
Farm workers can go years without reporting their employers because of fear of reprecussions, but Beaman said her clients hope this lawsuit will help bring change to the farming workforce.
"On a very basic level the workers just want to see that the conditions comply with the requirements of state and federal law at least," she said.
Sonrise Farms has yet to be presented with the lawsuit. Beaman said the case could take 3 to 4 years.
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