Clarissa Zavala

Clarissa Zavala stands with her fellow workers striking Spreckels Sugar facility in Brawley, CA. 

BRAWLEY — Spreckles Sugar union workers forsook their plant jobs Thursday, March 9, to strike demanding respect from the company which they supported with filing an unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board.

Spreckels Sugar, owned by Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, in turn filed for a temporary injunction to halt the strike in federal court. The company's complaint was heard by judge Gonzalo Curiel on Friday, March 10 at the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Both sides wait for the judge’s decision.

The 76-year-old sugar factory is set to begin harvest in three weeks. Spreckels Sugar plant is the last operating facility in California and the only option for beet growers in the Imperial Valley. Due to excessive summer heat, sugar beets cannot be stored. Harvesting beets means the factory operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, according to its web page.

Clarissa Zavala, Spreckels Shop Steward and Picket Captain, spokesperson for the strikers outside the plant said that was why they chose to strike now.

“We chose now because it puts the most pressure on management. We need to make changes,” Zavala said.

Zavala chose her words carefully, not being any more specific than saying the workers wanted to be treated with respect, they wanted the company to respect their contract and follow through with their promises.

However, a press release issued by the UCFW Local135 the night before mentioned pension plans.

"These essential workers are tired of the disrespect and demand that the company roll over its pension plan in a way that the workers deserve and negotiate a settlement quickly and fairly, which it has yet to do. Some workers stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars unless we act now. The workers are fed up and ready to take action over the unfair labor practices committed by Spreckels,” said Todd Walters, UFCW Local 135 President.

Zavala said the strike wasn’t an economic issue, but one of respect. She said not one person has crossed to line to continue working at Spreckles. 

“We were at the bargaining table yesterday but with no results,” Zavala said. “Ninety-eight percent of the strikers here work here,” she said of the many holding signs, some chanting and marching.

Although harvest starts in April, Zavala said repair and maintenance is year round for many of the workers, while others are brought in from April through July as trucks bearing tons of beets are dropped off at the factory.

UFCW Local 135 represents over 100 workers at Spreckels Sugar Company at two locations in Imperial County: the sugar processing plant in Brawley and a warehouse in Imperial. Sugar workers will be picketing both sites, according to the press release.

Spreckles manager, Shelby Drye said he had no comment but passed a telephone number of a spokesperson to The Desert Review. As of publication, no return call had been received.

Zavala said the workers would strike as long as it took to get management back to the negotiation tables and those striking were receiving strike stipends from the union.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Pineapple on pizza?

You voted: