Protest held after dozens of farmworkers test positive for COVID-19 at Wasco packing house

A South Valley packing house dealing with a coronavirus outbreak has come under fire from the United Farm Workers.

Union members have picketed outside Primex Farms in the Kern County town of Wasco to demand workplace protections.

The UFW indicated dozens of packing house workers came down with COVID-19.

UFW Secretary-Treasurer Armando Elenes said, "We have a census of 97 workers that have been infected, 41 adult family members and then 24 children."

Elenes said as people learned co-workers were starting to get ill in June, the fear spread among the Primex workforce.

He explained, "So you're kind of stuck in a rock and a hard place, where you're like, 'Wait a minute, I might get infected but how do I pay my bills?'"

Primex temporarily suspended operations during the outbreak.

Chief Operating Officer Mojgan Amin said in a statement to Action News that company adjustments included "reducing our capacity down to comply with social distancing, installing dividers and provide masks and protective face shield to our employees."

Elenes added, "One of the things the workers were demanding is that the company do a deep cleaning. To shut down, disinfect, and do a deep cleaning."

Amin countered Primex Farms has thoroughly sanitized the packing house.

But UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta doesn't think enough is being done to protect essential workers who toil at farms, packing houses and meat processing plants.

Huerta said, "Unfortunately they're not doing social distancing. They're not wearing masks while they're out working in the fields so we feel they're being neglected."

Free masks were now available for any agricultural business. They just have to register with their respective county ag department.
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