Sandra Saucedo lost her job for calling the police when her supervisor started firing his gun to intimidate workers. The supervisor had been playing a bait-and-switch game with worker pay at the apple orchard where she worked; they would change the agreed-upon piece-rate (the amount paid to workers based on how much they harvested) partway through a job. The supervisor brandished or fired his gun during disputes with workers over wages or other work-related issues.
When Saucedo heard the shots that day while working in the field, she feared someone would be hurt or killed. She called the police. When she and coworkers were fired for making that call, her search for legal help brought her to the attention of the Working Families Project at Columbia Legal Services.
Columbia Legal Services is a non-profit legal aid organization with a mission to advocate for people who face injustice and poverty. With the help of the Working Families Project and through the courageous efforts of Sandra Saucedo, farmworkers filed a class-action lawsuit to speak out against intimidation, unfair wage-payment practices, and violations of state worker-protection laws.
The class of more than seven hundred farmworkers won a cash judgment and settled their individual claims. The foreman was fired, and the workers can look forward to improved working conditions and fairer labor practices.
"Farm work is hard enough without the foreman pulling out his gun to intimidate workers. We tried to complain to his brother and the people in the office, but they never took our complaints seriously. They can no longer supervise workers at these orchards and that is a big victory that we hope will protect future workers,” said Saucedo.