Ministry gives checks to fired Pasco dairy workers

The Oregon Farm Worker Ministry wants to provide moral and financial support to nine workers who were fired from their jobs at Pasco's Ruby Ridge Dairy in the last few months.

That's why Ed Brandt, president of the ministry, was in Pasco on Wednesday to hand out checks for $390 to each of the nine workers.

It'll help them take care of their day-to-day expenses, he said. The ministry will continue to raise money and support for the workers until they are rehired by the dairy, Brandt said.

Workers' rights need to be respected, he said. Ruby Ridge workers claimed in a recent lawsuit filed against the dairy in Franklin County Superior Court that they were fired for trying to unionize.

Dick Bengen, who owns Ruby Ridge with his wife, told the Herald last month that the workers' claims were without merit. The employees were dismissed for a range of work performance-related issues including negligence and for following unsafe work practices, he said, not because of their unionizing efforts.

Seven of the nine workers were present to take the checks at the Wednesday news conference attended by about two dozen or so community members including a few faith leaders.

Armando Herrera said he was happy to get the money, which he'll use to pay his bills. Since losing his position at Ruby Ridge in August, Herrera has been working part time at an auto body shop. It's hard to live with a pay cut, he said.

He also was pleased with the community support for their cause, he said.

The workers' right to bargain at the workplace is part of the ministry's social principles, said Pastor Roger Barr of Kennewick First United Methodist Church. He attended to show support for the workers.

"It's a faith concern. It's very biblical. Care for the poor and the just treatment of workers," Barr said.

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; pjoshi@tricity; Business Beat blog at