The group gathered in large numbers to protest the alleged mistreatment of company employees.
Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, chairman of the Committee on Labor and Employment, was one of the attendees at the rally.
“Nothing is more powerful than when a community comes together,” Hernandez said.
He was at the processing plant at 1820 N. MacArthur Drive to show his support for workers rights, joining Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa in addressing a crowd of more than 300 people, the majority representing Teamsters from across the state.
“The workers want simple respect and dignity,” Hernandez said. “They want access to the middle-class dream.”
Hernandez, D-West Covina, is the author of Assembly Bill 1897, which calls for the protection of temporary workers when companies use staffing agencies and other labor contractors to supply workers.
The bill is under review by the Senate Labor Committee.
“This is ground zero between the workers and greedy corporate owners,” Hernandez told the screaming crowd. “This is the front line here. We as a people have to decide what kind of America we want to live in. What kind of California we are going to allow our government and our corporate leaders to give us. We’re sending a message with all the unity here.”
Taylor Farms operates two facilities in Tracy: Taylor Farms Pacific on MacArthur and Taylor Farms at 100 W. Valpico Road. The company is considered the world’s largest producer of fresh-cut vegetables, with products from bagged salads to prepared meals.
The Teamsters are accusing the company of mistreating workers and not providing them with full-time employee benefits.
On Wednesday, Taylor Farms CEO Bruce Taylor said in a telephone interview that the accusations by the Teamsters were unfounded.
“We’re being bullied,” he said. “We have a great group of employees; we treat them with respect and dignity.
“They (Teamsters) just attacked with lies and denigrated the ability of the (Tracy) team, and it’s a great team out there.”
Taylor said his company has about 500 full-time employees and about 400 employees through two temporary labor contractors, SlingShot and Abel Mendoza. He said his company uses the temp agencies as a hiring process to screen employees for full-time opportunities.
Because the workers are treated well, he said, more than 90 percent choose to stay.
“If treated well, they will stay, which they are doing in this case,” he said. “That’s where the proof is.”
In late March, Taylor employees took part in a vote to determine whether they wanted to unionize. During the second day of the vote, the National Labor Relations Board stopped the election after the Teamsters withdrew their request to proceed with an election.
The reason for stopping the vote varies depending upon who is asked. Teamsters organizer Mike Castro said June 12 that the National Labor Relations Board thought the vote was corrupted, but Taylor said Wednesday that the vote was called off because the union knew the motion wouldn’t pass.
“I was shocked (they stopped the vote),” Taylor said. “I support the vote. We’re committed to our people having their say. Tell us how they want to be represented. They voted and they let their choice be known, and the union is not letting it be counted.”
During the protest June 12, one unidentified Teamsters speaker told the gathered crowd, “We came with a message for Taylor Farms. You knock a few of us down, we take it personal. Stop mistreating these workers.”
Taylor Farms employees dressed in blue T-shirts stood together along the company property, yelling their objections to the Teamsters’ presence.
Some present and former Taylor Farms employees attending the protest spoke openly about the alleged employee mistreatment.
“A lot of workers are working hurt,” one woman working at Taylor Farms said in Spanish, translated by a friend. She refused to give her name, fearing retaliation from her employer. “I’m getting paid $8 per hour with no vacation, no insurance, no medical.”
“I was working for SlingShot for five to six months, and I hurt my arm when a woman pushed a door and hit my arm,” she added. “The next day, I couldn’t move my arm, and I told my crew leader and he accused (that) I didn’t get hurt there. If you get hurt, they say it was a pre-existing condition.”
After being out of work to recuperate, she tried to return to her job, she said, but no one returned her calls. She applied for a job at Abel Mendoza and has been working for a year and a half.
Taylor said Wednesday that the accusations of unfair labor practices at his company by the Teamsters were “silly” and “absolutely not true.”
Kimberlee Keller, a Teamsters organizer, said after the protest that the union planned to speaking out against the Tracy company.
“We are going to keep escalating this fight,” she said. “We will never stop until we have justice.”
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4225.
• Editor's note: This article was updated at 4:45 p.m. June 18 to add comments from an interview with Taylor Farms CEO Bruce Taylor.