Plaintiff Trial Attorneys Pushing For Ag to Pay for Transportation Time
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Something serious that could cost growers a lot of money concerns paying for worker transportation to and from a field, which traditionally has not been paid.
Michael Saqui is the principal owner of the Saqui Law Group, with offices in Roseville and Salinas. He specializes in labor and employment in agriculture.
“We’ve been having area meetings around the state regarding what we consider to be the most pressing and catastrophic issue facing agriculture today,” Saqui said. “The macro view is the proliferation of litigation against farmers for wage and hour Private Attorney General Acts.”
Saqui said it’s moved from nonproductive time, which could have bankrupted many companies had there not been a fixed put in through AB 1513.
“However, now the California Rural Legal Assistance and plaintiff attorneys have moved to the next big issue and that’s farm worker transportation.”
Farm worker transportation spins off the fact that we have a serious labor shortage, and we’re transporting workers greater distances than ever before.
And workers in car crews and buses and vans are being transported or transport themselves greater and greater distances.
“And the theory, of course from plaintiff trial attorneys is that even when they’re clearly voluntary mechanisms by which workers get transported on buses and vans, that it’s defacto involuntary because their theory is that farm workers have no position or station in life to make their own free decisions or have no other means, which is simply not the case.”
“Our workers for the last 30 years through car cruise and carpooling arrangements in vans have been getting around in servicing our crop needs and we have the best, most productive workforce on the planet,” said Saqui. “The plaintiff trial attorneys just keep nipping at different issues, and this is an issue that could potentially cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Working through multi-partner collaborations, SAGE develops place-based projects, toolkits and conceptual frameworks to demonstrate strategies for urban-edge farmland preservation, regeneration, and re-connection with healthy cities. SAGE also provides agriculture-related technical services such as foodshed and agricultural economic viability assessments, implementation plans and business plans. Partners include public agencies, land trusts, agricultural enterprises and associations, planning and economic consultancy firms, public-interest organizations working in the area of public health, healthy food access, education and conservation, and community groups in urban and rural areas.
Sibella founded SAGE in 2001 to use her background in agricultural marketing, education and journalism, to help diverse stakeholders embrace urban-edge agricultural places as keystones of urban and regional sustainability. Bringing Poppy on board strengthens the organization’s capacity to work with the agricultural community, particularly retiring landowners and beginning farmers and ranchers who are eager to benefit from new opportunities at the urban-edge.
Poppy began her career as a California Certified Public Accountant specializing in family-scale agricultural businesses and associations. She translated her intimate knowledge of agricultural issues and farm-family decision-making to the policy arena, working for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), first for the crop insurance program in the Western Region and most recently as the National Program Leader for Small Farms and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers in Washington, D.C.. While at the USDA she served as a member of the management team for Secretary Vilsack‘s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative,
“We are delighted to welcome Poppy to SAGE,” says Kraus. “Poppy’s breadth of experience – providing services to farmers, working for ag-focused nonprofits and for the USDA – and the respect she commands in the California and national agricultural communities, make her the ideal person to help SAGE grow our mission to cultivate urban-edge places that model sustainable agriculture integrated with resilient communities.” For her part, Poppy says, “I have long respected Sibella’s vision and work, and I think we will make a great team. Sibella already has many forward-thinking projects in the works, and I’m looking forward to working with SAGE’s diverse partners, as well as bringing in collaborations of my own.”
SAGE’s areas of expertise, services and publications include:
Technical consulting and visioning on the agricultural components of land-use projects and policy documents
On-the-ground models and best practice toolkits that integrate farming with public engagement and natural resources stewardship
Foodshed and local agriculture assessments for land trusts, local and regional governments, associations and businesses
Conceptual frameworks that bridge sustainable agriculture and graphic models that depict the inter-relationship of urban and agricultural land uses