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Letters to the Editor: April 18, 2012 

Working Wages

I am writing to challenge several of the premises stated and alluded to in your cover story on the Harvest documentary ("Fruits of Their Labor," April 11). I am willing to provide documentation and allow the Bohemian access to our financial records where appropriate in order to support my positions.

The writer claims that the women in the film "occasionally get stiffed" on their just pay, that they were paid less than the men, and leaves the reader with the impression the women were not paid enough for the work they did. The writer also connects one of my clients to this crew as their supervisor, when in fact he had nothing to do with them.

Employees fill out their own time cards for hours worked. They are paid by the hour unless they pick at certain levels; then they are paid by the pound. Each worker gets a copy of his or her time card. We prepare a document based on the certified weigh tag (we also bill our clients based on the exact same documents) of the grapes picked, clearly showing how much money workers made by the hour and how much money they made picking based on weight. We pay the higher of the two amounts. This process is documented through the winery and every hour, pound and penny is accounted for. Workers have copies of and access to all these records. Certainly questions and disputes arise during the year because of the complexity of harvest, but all disputes are resolved based on the facts of the hours worked and the weights. We also pay bonuses at the end of the season to compensate for achieving quality goals, attendance and effort. All employees received these season-ending bonuses.

Rates of pay are the same for every picker, man or woman. No one made as much money as hoped this past harvest. There was a lot of picking by the hour for all crews, male and female, due to the extraordinary low yields and the amount of rain-induced infections in the vineyards. When yields and the weather are good, pickers sometimes make more than triple their hourly rate. It just didn't happen this year.

Related to the claim the pickers are undocumented, the documentary never makes that claim. Every worker must complete a government form known as an I-9 before beginning work. They are required to have a Social Security card and a driver's license (issued in the States), a U.S. passport or U.S.A. Resident Alien card.

Finally, the article refers to Matt Reilly as having some supervisory responsibility for these women. That is incorrect. Mr. Reilly has never worked for Bacchus Vineyard Management in any manner and has no authority or responsibility related to these women. Nor does he have knowledge of how much they picked or what they were paid. He represents the owner of a vineyard where we happen to work. It is very common for winemakers or grower-relations persons to be in the vineyard when we pick. They are there to ensure and ascertain grape quality.

In closing, I would simply say we gave these women a chance to form their own harvest crew and work through the season—something that is very rare in our industry and something they continue to tell me they are grateful for. If it had been a great crop year, the documentary and the article would have been about all the joys of the season. Unfortunately, it was the worst harvest in 50 years.


Beyond Chatter

I am responding to Judy Walenta's letter in the April 4 issue. Amazing how two Bohemian readers could get such different conclusions after reading Leilani Clark's close look at the Judi Bari bombing ("A Tangled Web," March 21). Ms. Walenta! You got it wrong. Thorough reporters like Clark should be respected for going to the trouble to present most of the theories, angles and court decisions for the past years associated with the bombing mystery. And it is a mystery. For anyone to conclude there is an answer to the bombing is "idle chatter" in my humble opinion.

I agree "aging activists" has an odious tone. Sixties-sounding words like "activist" have lost their meaning, and "aging" sounds like a putdown (irrelevant oldies; confused old biddies hanging on to the past glory days?). But young reporters whose integrity and check-sourcing skills are exemplary are forgiven.

The call for DNA sounds respectable, if the caller knows it exists. But if the caller knows DNA has been degraded and can't be used in a courtroom, it's all "chatter" and smoke and mirrors. I have my theories about who made the bomb, and who placed it in Bari's car, and why, but they are only theories. The reporter had the courage to present the theories and possibilities, all thoroughly checked resources—hardly a crime of chattering.


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