Yakima warehouse workers threaten hunger strike, concerned about safety

May 18, 2020, 3:59 PM | Updated: 4:31 pm

Two warehouse workers from an apple packing plant in Yakima are threatening a hunger strike if their employers can’t support COVID-19 safety measures.

Farmers trade potatoes to Woodinville for toiletries

Farm, orchard, and warehouse strikes have been going on since early May, and workers say there is still not enough being done to protect them from COVID-19. There were seven strikes between Monday and Thursday of last week, reported the Yakima Herald, with more expected, as workers are requesting more social distancing, hazard pay, and protection from retaliation for protesting.

Union representative Edgar Franks says the safety concerns are shared among workers employed by at least six different produce companies in the Yakima Valley area.

“They haven’t seen any kind of support from their employers on that end,” Franks told KIRO Radio. “Most of their work is done on a line, on a production line, and there is no social distancing there. Workers are basically shoulder to shoulder.”

Franks says, as far as they know, more than a dozen warehouse workers have tested positive for the virus.

“Many of their coworkers have already become infected and sick,” he said. “They’re afraid that, in their workplace, they might become sick and bring the virus home and infect their families.”

Report: COVID-19 infections in Eastern Washington ‘slowly increasing’

Yakima County has the highest infection rate of COVID-19 in the western United States. On Monday, the Washington State Department of Health is reporting 2,370 cases, and 75 deaths in the Yakima County alone.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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Yakima warehouse workers threaten hunger strike, concerned about safety