Nearly 500 foreign farmworkers will share in a $3.75 million settlement approved Tuesday by a federal judge, ending a lawsuit against Munger Bros. and its blueberry farm in Sumas, Washington.
U.S. District Judge John Coughenour OK’d the settlement during a brief telephone hearing. Some 487 workers were awarded at least $4,656 and 65 of them will receive an additional $10,384.
In a court document, one of the workers’ attorneys, Joe Morrison of Columbia Legal Services, called the minimum award a “tremendous sum,” equivalent to a year’s wages working in Mexico.
Munger, based in California, owns Sarbanand Farms, near the Canada border in northwest Washington. Some 65 workers walked out in 2017 after a co-worker was taken from the farm in an ambulance. The farm fired the workers, leading to more protests.
The worker died at a hospital of natural causes. His death was not work-related, according to a state investigation.
Hundreds of workers
The class-action lawsuit claimed the 65 workers were illegally fired and the others subjected to a hostile work environment. Munger and the workers reached a settlement in December. The company denied any wrongdoing.
In the following months, attorneys and legal assistants sought to contact the 519 workers eligible to share in the money. They reached 94%, according to court records.
Two workers, Barbaro Rosas and Guadalupe Tapia, received an additional $10,000 each for being the lead plaintiffs.
Munger also agreed to pay $787,500 in attorney and legal fees. The workers were represented by Columbia Legal Services and Seattle law firm Schroeter, Goldmark and Bender.
Also last year, Munger reached a $3.5 million settlement with the U.S. Labor Department over its treatment of workers in Washington state and California.