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Farmworkers in Santa Maria demand higher wages amid rising inflation

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Posted at 3:48 PM, May 03, 2022

With the cost of living continuing to climb, farmworkers at J&G Berry Farms in Santa Maria are demanding a pay increase.

They say right now, they make $2.10 per box of strawberries. They are asking for an increase to $3.50.

"The things we are earning, it's not enough for food," said farmworker Rosalina Sebastian. "The rent is expensive, the gas is going high."

Sebastian tells KSBY she has been working for various farms around Santa Maria for over two decades, and that she is yet to get a pay increase during her last five years working for J&G Berry Farms.

The farmworkers have been striking with support from some local organizations. The Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) and the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (C.A.U.S.E.) have both been active in their support for Santa Maria's farmworkers.

"Some of the funds we have leftover we are using to provide water, snacks, breakfast, and lunch," said C.A.U.S.E. Associate Organizing Director Zulema Aleman. "Workers are out here all day and we want to make sure they have something to eat, and that porta-potties are available."

Some participants in the demonstration tell KSBY a committee of farmworkers met privately with the owners of J&G Berry Farms Tuesday afternoon. They say the company offered them a five-cent pay increase, an offer that was collectively rejected, meaning the strike will continue.

J&G Berry Farms declined to comment on the strike.