200515-yh-news-strikecaravan-2.jpg

FILE — Workers from Columbia Reach Pack hold signs while on strike in front of the business on Thursday, May 14, 2020, in Yakima, Wash.

A strike continued Friday at Columbia Reach Pack.

Strikes at Columbia Reach and Hansen Fruit, another Yakima warehouse, started Thursday.

Kerri Lovelass, human resource manager for Columbia Reach, said the company plans to meet with workers but it’s waiting for the owners to be available.

Lovelass said the company closed its packing line for five days at the end of March and early April. The closure was in response to employee concerns regarding COVID-19 cases at the plant.

At the time, she said, the company had not been notified of any cases.

“We as a company decided to shut down, figure out how to do social distancing, how to clean the warehouse,” she said.

While Columbia Reach had 31 positive cases of COVID-19, it was not notified about all of them by the Yakima Health District until April 17. Since the Yakima Health District does not disclose names, the company relies on workers to inform them about positive test results.

“I had 15 people who told us (about having COVID-19),” she said. “The other 16 people, I don’t know who they are. I don’t know if they’re still working or they been quarantined.”

If they knew of employees with COVID-19, she said, the company would notify co-workers who worked in the same area or department.

Lovelass notes that the company has not been notified by employees or the Yakima Health District of additional cases since mid-April.

Columbia Reach received 1,000 masks it ordered six weeks ago on Friday. Prior to that, it was limited to 500 masks it received from the county’s Emergency Management. It provided a mask for anyone who asked for one, Lovelass said.

The company had not required workers to wear masks because it did not have enough.

Now Columbia Reach is ready to distribute the new masks to employees.

“We try to take care of our workers,” she said. “Without our workers, we can’t pack our apples.”

Reach Mai Hoang at maihoang@yakimaherald.com or Twitter @maiphoang