Premiere Raspberries
Harvesters from Premiere Raspberries in Watsonville stage a noisy protest on Riverside Road outside of the Well-Pict factory in 2018. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian file

WATSONVILLE—While some will be celebrating the birthday of activist and labor leader Cesar Chavez on March 31, a major raspberry grower in Watsonville will close its doors, and hundreds of employees will be laid off.

A representative at Premiere Raspberries, LLC confirmed the closure Thursday but did not elaborate on the decision.

Premiere Raspberries had lost a legal battle against its workers, who have been campaigning for better conditions and pay since they joined the United Farm Workers (UFW) in 2017. 

The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) had in 2018 ordered Premiere Raspberries to uphold a statewide contract that would’ve included a 15 percent raise, benefits, paid holidays and back pay. Many workers claimed they had been working 12-hour days, with paid overtime only after 10 hours on the job, up to seven days per week.

But the company instead challenged the UFW and ALRB’s decision in court. Workers staged numerous strikes, including one in the Fall of 2018 that saw roughly 100 workers protesting in front of the company’s main distributor, Well-Pict on Riverside Drive.

The ongoing battle came to a head in January of this year, when the state Supreme Court declined to hear the company’s case. Not long after, it was announced that Premiere Raspberries would be closing its doors and going out of business at the end of the month.

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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