AG Lawsuit: Ostrom Mushroom Farms fired women, replaced them with H-2A workers with fewer rights

Lawsuit mushroom
Pixabay

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. —  The Washington State Attorney General is suing a Sunnyside mushroom farm, claiming they violated state laws by systematically firing female employees and replacing them with foreign agricultural workers who had fewer rights.

“The evidence my team uncovered is clear,” Washington AG Bob Ferguson said. “Their conduct is disturbing and unlawful.”

The lawsuit claims Ostrom pressured workers to quit by suddenly raising its production goals and punished anyone who didn’t meet them, allegedly disciplining women at higher rates than men and hiding real production numbers from workers.

This lawsuit states that “Ostrom terminated 79 percent of its majority-female Washington-based mushroom pickers and replaced them with majority-male foreign workers.”

Ferguson also said the company went so far as to post a job advertisement on Facebook that said they were seeking “only males.”

One woman who previously worked at the farm spoke out at a press conference Wednesday, saying “they use any excuse to fire us” and “We are here because we are seeking justice.”

Ferguson said the company then replaced those employees with H-2A workers, which is only for employers who have a shortage of laborers.

“Employers cannot apply for this program unless they can show that there is a shortage of U.S.-based workers — workers located in their region — who are willing, qualified and able to work,” Ferguson stated.

He continued to explain that anyone who tried to complain, advocate for changes or speak up about the working conditions was retaliated against. Female workers were also disciplined at a higher rate than male workers, Ferguson restated.

Another woman, who continues to work at the farm, also spoke at the press conference about the allegations of retaliation against employees, claiming “one of the managers hit me with a metal cart.”

According to the lawsuit,  the company fired over 140 of its U.S.-based mushroom pickers between January 2021 and May 2022 — mostly women who had years of experience working at the farm.

“During the same period, Ostrom hired 65 temporary, foreign agricultural workers under the federal H-2A program — all but two of whom were men,” Ferguson said.

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