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Where have all the pickers gone?

WorkSource currently recruiting 400 orchard workers

It's pickin' time and there's thin picking among the pickers.

Four hundred pickers are needed to gather the early cherry harvest in the Sunnyside and Toppenish areas. Another 100 are needed to thin apple trees.

The picker problem-there are 20 percent fewer migrant workers available now in Sunnyside than there were this time last year-is compounded by the fact that a hot summer has ripened cherries early all over the Northwest at the same time.

That, in turn, stretches a thin labor force even thinner.

WorkSource of Yakima and Sunnyside are teaming together with growers and the state's Labor and Industry division to recruit workers among local high school youth now on summer break.

Mark Rodriguez of WorkSource Sunnyside hopes to see some students turn their summer break into a summer job.

"We're not seeing the migratory workers here this year," he said. "So we're looking at a non-traditional workforce of high school students."

The WorkSource Sunnyside office at 1925 Morgan Road will be open this Saturday at 9 a.m. to recruit and train pickers. Applicants should be ages 14 and older. During Saturday's recruitment drive, applicants will need to fill out an information form with their date of birth, social security number and contact number.

Rodriguez said workers are needed to pick cherries for the next week or two. After that, apple thinning will continue for another month.

"The cherries are falling off the trees," Rodriguez said. "If farmers had the pickers right now they'd be putting them to work."

Those interested in working in either the cherry or apple harvest can also call WorkSource at 836-1102 or 836-5405.

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