On Wednesday, February 10, the Coachella City Council unanimously passed a mandate that farmers and other agricultural employers provide an additional $4 per hour to their employees for at least four months, effective immediately. Grocery, restaurant and retail pharmacy workers are also covered under the ordinance, which applies to businesses that employ 300 or more workers nationally and more than five employees in the city of Coachella.
Prior to the city council meeting, WG President & CEO Dave Puglia submitted a letter to the members of the council stating that the proposed mandate “would harm many long-standing family farms, field workers and other employees whose livelihoods are invested in those farms, and the post-pandemic economic recovery of the region.”
In the letter, Puglia noted that labor is by far the highest cost for California family farms, and that farmers are price takers, not price setters, unable to simply pass the cost of higher wages on to grocery stores and restaurants.
Puglia concluded: “There will be unintended consequences, the most likely being a dramatic decline in production by local farmers this season and possibly longer as grocery stores and restaurants turn elsewhere in the supply chain… All of this translates into lower earning opportunities for local farm employees and reduced economic activity in the region.”
Click here to view Dave Puglia’s letter to the Coachella City Council.
In a Los Angeles Times report, Juan Manuel Moran, a United Farm Workers internal organizing coordinator, echoed Puglia’s sentiments, stating that farms are already struggling with higher worker pay and may not be able to operate with further wage hikes. Moran noted that the additional pay mandate sounds good in theory, but in practice “the worker ends up losing.”