Capitol Alert

Judge tosses Valley growers’ lawsuit against Brown administration

Farm workers pull up irrigation drip lines in a garlic field near Huron, CA in Fresno county on May 21, 2015.
Farm workers pull up irrigation drip lines in a garlic field near Huron, CA in Fresno county on May 21, 2015. rbenton@sacbee.com

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a multimillion-dollar farm labor deal struck by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature last year, rejecting a claim by two Fresno County growers that they were illegally carved out of the accord.

The order, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, marked a victory for legislation offering California farmers protection from lawsuits in exchange for back payments to thousands of employees for rest periods and other work.

In their lawsuit, Fowler Packing Co. and Gerawan Farming Inc. said parameters of the agreement effectively excluded them in an act of “intentional and arbitrary legislative targeting.” Their exclusion, among other growers, was considered necessary to keep the influential United Farm Workers union from opposing the deal.

In his order, Judge Dale Drozd said the Legislature had reasonable grounds to impose time limits and other conditions on the accord, and he found no evidence the Legislature sought to punish Folwer or Gerawan. A lawyer for the growers said they will appeal the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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