11-28-13 WMC Oyster Workers to 9th Circuit: Closing Farm Would Hurt Working People

Oyster Workers to Ninth Circuit:  Closing Oyster Farm Would Hurt Working People

By Sarah Rolph
This story is the fourth in a series of reports about the Amicus Curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs filed in support of Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s petition to the Ninth Circuit requesting an en banc hearing of its case. The historic oyster farm is fighting for an injunction to remain open in the face of Park Service wrongdoing while its lawsuit against the agency proceeds. Citizen readers are invited to read the briefs and to respond to these stories with letters to the editor, or with essays of their own.

As has been reported in these pages, eight separate friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed in support of Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s request for a rehearing in the Ninth Circuit. The briefs shed light on legal, scientific, historic, economic, and cultural aspects of the case.

One of the most compelling briefs was filed by Jorge Mata and Isela Meza, two longtime employees at the historic oyster farm.  In the brief, Mr. Mata and Ms. Meza point out that “closing the oyster farm will hurt real working people and their families.”

The oyster farm provides employment for approximately 30 skilled men and women. As has been the community tradition for decades, the oyster farm and its processing facility—the last remaining oyster cannery in California—provides jobs for the wives of men who work at the surrounding ranches. These jobs will be lost if the oyster farm closes.

Jorge Mata has worked at the farm for 28 years, along with several members of his family. His wife Veronica has worked at the oyster farm for 24 years and is currently in charge of the shellfish packing operation. His sister Leticia has worked at the oyster farm for 29 years. His grown son Jorge Mata Jr. and his daughter Ruby work part-time at the oyster farm.

In the brief, Mr. Mata emphasizes that he is proud to work at the oyster farm, where his family is treated with respect, earns a living wage, is able to live and work together, and has developed personal relationships with his coworkers and the Lunny family.

Isela Meza (also known as Rosa), the oyster company’s staff marine biologist, has worked and lived at the oyster farm for five years. She oversees the handling of microscopic oyster larvae, ensuring that they set and begin to grow properly at the beginning of the oyster-planting process.  Ms. Meza has a decree in Marine Science and was trained as an Oceanologist at the University of Mexico, Baja, graduating in 2008.

Oyster farming requires specialized skills and compliance with numerous regulatory requirements. If the oyster farm closes, it is unlikely that the employees will be able to find other jobs in the area where they can put their specialized skills to work.

Please read the brief for yourself and consider sharing your thoughts about this issue with the readers of the Citizen. The brief can be found here:  https://oysterzone.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/amicus-curiae-of-employees-jorge-mata-and-isela-meza-10-28-13.pdf Send your letters and essays to the Citizen editor at editor@westmarincitizen.com

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