Eastern Washington dairy farmer Fransisca Vander Meulen choked back tears as she explained how unfair lawsuits that money-hungry lawyers have filed against dozens of WA farms could put her family’s farm out of business. She joined Dillon Honcoop to talk about what’s really at stake for so many family farms who worked to follow state law regarding overtime pay, but now could be heavily penalized in spite of that.
“We would love to see the legislators say they can’t go back three years retroactively, because that’s going to cost us an astronomical amount of money,” Vander Meulen said. “We’re not opposed to paying our employees overtime, but it’s just the three years retroactively what that could cost for us.”
She explains that the retroactive pay could put her farm out of business and would take away her employees’ jobs.
“Right now, with the way times are, it would be hard to find another job,” she said.
Vander Meulen added that it’s not just her farm, it will be many farms going out of business.
“It’s not going to just put farms out of business, it’s going to put the businesses we support — like the dairy service companies and the people that we buy supplies from — it’s going to put them out of business because they aren’t going to have products to sell to the farmers that aren’t in business anymore.”
Vander Meulen says that farming isn’t as fun anymore. Rules and regulations have burdened the dairy industry and she says it’s too hard to pack up and move states.
“We want this business to be there for the next generation. Seeing my son grow up on the farm — that’s all he wants to do,” she said as she choked up. She adds that part of her wants to encourage her young son to do something else, but on the other hand it’s in his blood and she doesn’t want to take that away.
“Something has to be done, because these lawyers are still going to be advertising on the radio and advertising on Facebook saying, ‘oh hey look, we can make you some quick money. All you have to do is file a lawsuit, here’s the door.’ And there’s people that are going to fall for it.”
Vander Meulen says she’s certain almost all of her employees would want to go back to the old ways before the lawsuits started happening.
“They are not happy and they would love to go back to the old days. But, the problem is there is no going back now,” she said. “We have to move forward.”
Listen to the full interview below