Wage hike may end WA company’s blueberry harvest


A federal judge will make the decision to uphold the increase on Aug. 29

Blueberry Harvest_167159

FILE – In this Friday, July 27, 2012 file photo, wild blueberries are ready for harvesting at the Dolham Farm in Warren, Maine. Maine’s wild blueberry growers for the most part escaped widespread damage from a harmful new fruit fly during the 2013 summer harvest, resulting in what is expected to be an above-average crop(AP […]

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — A mandated wage increase for Washington state blueberry pickers may cause one fruit company to end its harvest early.

The Capital Press reported Tuesday that Zirkle Fruit Company of Selah says its season may be ended prematurely by a 50% wage increase ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Zirkle Fruit says it is awaiting the outcome of an Aug. 29 hearing, during which a federal judge will decide whether to uphold the increase.

The company 139 miles (224 kilometers) southeast of Seattle says it will pay the increase for workers back to July 24 before deciding whether to complete the harvest.

A company attorney says in a lawsuit filed Aug. 7 that the “unprecedented wage jump” would cause a “calamitous” increase in labor costs.

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