Strawberry pickers fired for fleeing a fire last week in California have gotten their jobs back after one of the largest labor unions stepped up for them.
The incident took place at Crisalida Berry Farms, where the farm hands were tasked with picking strawberries. Heavy smoke from a nearby wild fire began to choke out the fields, forcing the workers to abandon the fields.
A foreman at the farm reportedly warned the workers they would be fired for fleeing the fire, LAist noted, but the smoke was making it too difficult for them to breathe any longer and they fled anyway.
“The ashes were falling on top of us,” one worker told NBC LA. “They told us if we leave, there would be no job to return to.”
The farm’s owner reportedly made good on the foreman’s threats, firing 15 of the workers for fleeing the approaching fire. That fire, known as the Springs Fire, forced many evacuations in the Southern California area but firefighters say it is now 90 percent contained.
Once news of the alleged firing spread, United Farm Workers stepped in to help the workers, even though they are not unionized.
“No worker shall work under conditions where they feel his life or health is in danger,” UFW representative Lauro Barrajas said.
But a union rep found out it was all a misunderstanding, and the workers all had jobs waiting for them at the farm.
“The group of strawberry pickers who had complained about losing their jobs because of the smoke from the Camirillo fires have been assured they have jobs at Crisalida Berry Farms,” a union rep said.
Dave Murray of Crisalida Berry Farms confirmed the workers weren’t really fired for fleeing the fire, also labeling the situation a misunderstanding. It came a little too late for the farm, however — all but one of the farm hands had already found work elsewhere.