Gebbers Farms fined over COVID-19 safety failures

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BREWSTER — Gebbers Farms, one of the largest agriculture operations in the U.S., must pay a $13,200 fine for failure to tamp down the spread of COVID-19 among its residential workers.

The state Department of Labor and Industries announced the fine Thursday, saying Gebbers workers from one housing pod interacted with members of other shelters in violation of ag-worker housing rules, and that no barriers were put in place to prevent virus spread in kitchen and cooking areas.

The ag operator became the site of a major COVID-19 outbreak among its guest worker population in August. Three workers died that month, and L&I stepped in to order upgrades in its worker housing and transportation.

A separate L&I investigation involving the three deceased workers has not yet been completed. Gebbers has 15 days to appeal the fine.

More than half of Gebbers’ estimated 4,500 workers are guest employees under the international H-2A visa program. L&I says more than 20 farm operations in Washington have been fined since March for violating state COVID-19 health rules, including farms in Mattawa and Sunnyside.