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MOORPARK : Farm Workers Threaten Strike for Wage Hike

United Farm Workers at Moorpark’s Muranaka Farms on Wednesday threatened to strike if the company does not approve wage increases and health benefits.

Milton Tyre, a Los Angeles labor lawyer representing the company, and UFW President Arturo Rodriguez have been arguing over terms of a new contract for more than a week. Muranaka employs about 150 field workers, packinghouse employees and farm laborers on 450 acres of Ventura County farmland, Tyre said.

Harry Muranaka, the company’s director, said it was too early in the process to comment on the negotiations.

The workers are divided into hourly earners and those paid for how much they pick in a day. The union is demanding a salary increase for all workers of 9% to 12%, said Mario Brito, the regional manager for the union.

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“We haven’t had a salary increase in four years,” he said. “The cost of living has increased over that time, and a lot of people are just breaking even after paying for gas and food.”

Brito said Rodriguez, son-in-law to the late Cesar Chavez, came to Moorpark to negotiate because the Muranaka contract was one of the last contracts Chavez had worked on before he died in April, 1993.

Brito said the union members, who flew banners and posted signs on their cars Wednesday, were considering taking other actions before striking, but would not specify what those actions would be.

Tyre, who said the company expects to make an offer to the union soon, said he did not expect a strike. The farm workers will meet Friday to discuss the latest developments in the contract negotiations, Brito said.

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