Growers Lobby Sues UFW, Berry Firm

A Times Staff Writer

The Western Growers Assn. has sued the United Farm Workers union and Coastal Berry Co., alleging that the Watsonville-based strawberry grower/shipper has colluded with the union to allow the UFW to control the company. The suit also alleges that Coastal Berry, acquired from Monsanto division Garguilo Inc. a year ago by Washington-based investor David Gladstone, engaged in unfair competition when it sent a letter to workers saying it supported UFW efforts to organize them while at the same time telling the media it was remaining neutral. Last year, the WGA, a 3,300-member trade group, filed two unfair-labor-practice charges with the state's Agricultural Labor Relations Board against the UFW, Coastal Berry and Monsanto. The ALRB eventually dismissed the charges. Coastal Berry President David Smith said he hadn't seen the lawsuit but that the issue has been "floating around" for more than a year and was not new. The suit was filed in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

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