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Farmworkers call for higher wages as guests taste wines at Healdsburg event

Jeremy Hay - Press Democrat

May 18, 2024

Workers and supporters passed out flyers calling for wages of $25 an hour or $250 for each ton of picked grapes.|

Farmworkers rallied Saturday against the backdrop of a signature high-end celebration of Sonoma County culture, calling for higher wages and disaster pay.

As hundreds of guests of the Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience — some of whom paid up to $4,500 to attend a full slate of the 3-day weekend’s events — sampled food and wine under tents set up near the city’s downtown Plaza, more than 100 farmworkers and supporters marched nearby with signs demanding “dignified wages.”

“My goal is for them to listen to the workers,” said Cecilia Rodriguez, who said she’d been working in the county’s vineyards since 1999. “We believe that what we’re asking for is fair: that they pay us the salary we deserve.”

Organizers of the march pointed to other developments as signs that their campaign of several years is having an impact: a $2 million Sonoma County disaster relief fund for lower-income residents including undocumented people and workers in low-wage sectors such as agriculture and tourism; a $328,000 settlement with a vineyard manager over illegal labor practices; and the adoption of hazard pay guarantees at several companies including Boeschen Vineyards in Napa.

On Saturday, workers and their supporters passed out flyers calling for wages of $25 an hour or $250 for each ton of picked grapes.

“It’s just putting real attention on where the wealth of this industry is coming from, right? It comes from farmworkers. And at an event that is celebrating wine, it’s really important that workers’ voices are heard,” said Davida Sotelo Escobedo, communications and research coordinator at North Bay Jobs with Justice, a labor rights coalition that helped organize the Saturday demonstration. “Workers aren't making enough in this industry.”

Reached by phone early Saturday evening, Kristen Green, a public affairs official with Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience, said she couldn’t comment at that moment.

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