Wonderful Citrus, which grows and packages the popular Halo brand of clementine and mandarin oranges, has responded to a workers' walkout that began Friday by restoring the amount it pays for each bin of the freshly picked Halos.
Wonderful Citrus is a division of The Wonderful Company, one of Kern's largest agricultural employers with revenues exceeding $4 billion.
"We’ve resolved the main concern raised by our third-party labor contractors and are currently paying the same bin rate for picking mandarins that we previously paid for clementines," the company said in a statement. "The majority of our workers are back on the job, and we anticipate returning to normal operations soon."
Contracted farmworkers walked off the job near Shafter on Friday to protest a move by the Kern County grower to reduce the price it pays for harvested mandarins.
Hundreds of workers refused to return to the groves after learning early Friday that the company had cut by $5 the rate it pays per bin, from $53 to $48. A bin of madarins is about 950 pounds of fruit.
The company said Friday that the rate reduction resulted from a seasonal transition from harvesting clementines to mandarins, both of which are marketed as Halos. Due to the smaller size of the clementines, the company said it had been paying a premium for harvesting, then went back to paying what it said were regular rates for mandarins.
Nevertheless, the $5 cut was rescinded Monday, the fourth day of the strike, and the pickers returned to work.
Wonderful recently announced it would minimum wage to $15 per hour. But as workers employed by third-party labor contractors, the farmworkers who went on strike do not work directly for Wonderful.