By Associated Press - Tuesday, March 10, 2020

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - More than a dozen pesticide sprayers in Washington state have stopped working over lack of fair wages and working conditions.

United Farm Workers and several Evans Fruit employees in Sunnyside spoke to local news outlets Monday in Yakima after walking off the job Friday, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Union national vice president Erik Nicholson translated for multiple employees who spoke in Spanish.

Several workers have said they worked 12 to 15 hours a day often spraying pesticides, but they did not have the proper equipment to protect themselves, with some complaining of irritated eyes. Workers also argued that they did not have paid breaks.

Complaints regarding working conditions were sent to the state Department of Labor and Industries, workers said.

Union officials and workers said they were turned down after requesting to meet with company leaders.

“The company basically said it was their way or the highway,” union regional director Victoria Ruddy said.

Evans Fruit had no comment when called Monday.

The union expects to meet with workers to determine next steps.

Evans Fruit is one of the state’s largest fruit companies with thousands of acres throughout central Washington and packing plants in Cowiche, Tieton and Yakima.

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