Half Moon Bay farmworkers lived in 'deplorable' conditions, allegedly paid $9 an hour

As new details emerge in the aftermath of the Half Moon Bay mass shooting that left seven farmworkers dead, the massacre also highlights the harsh living and working conditions that some of those farmworkers endured.

Farmworkers at California Terra Garden, previously known as Mountain Mushroom Farm, and nearby Concord Farms, where Monday's massacre unfolded, worked below the state's minimum wage and lived in cramped conditions, said Gov. Gavin Newsom at an afternoon press conference on Tuesday.

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"Living in shipping containers. Folks getting $9 an hour. No healthcare, no support, no services, but taking care of our health, providing a service to each and every one of us every single day. So this whole thing is a stacking of issues that come to the fore," said the governor.

California's minimum wage has been above $9 since 2015 and rose to $15.50 an hour on Jan. 1 for all employers, regardless of the size of the business.

While California's latest mass shooting, the second in the span of 48 hours after the Monterey Park shooting, renews focus on the struggle to control gun violence, it also draws attention to housing inequality across the state that has forced some residents into overcrowded and unsafe living conditions

San Mateo County Supervisor Ray Mueller surveyed one of the mushroom farms where Monday's tragic events occurred, sharing photos of the living quarters on the site.

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Mueller called the conditions "deplorable" and "heartbreaking," saying in a tweet, "we must raise the quality of life of farmworkers, NOW."

Photos show shipping containers and wooden shacks on the farm that appear to have been converted into housing.

"One room dwellings. No insulation. No running water. Outdoor stoves to cook," tweeted Mueller.

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District 3 Supervisor Ray Mueller shared photos on social media of the living conditions at one of the Half Moon Bay mushroom farms where Monday's mass shooting occurred. 

One farmworker told the supervisor she had to sleep with floodwaters from the recent storms on the floor of her unit.

After Newsom and other state and local officials heard of the living conditions, the farmerworkers in Half Moon Bay were exposed to, the governor's office vowed to investigate.

"Many workers have no choice but to tolerate the conditions provided to them by their employers," the governor's office said in a statement. "Our country relies on their backbreaking work, yet Congress cannot even provide them the stability of raising their families and working in this country without fear of deportation, which contributes to their vulnerability in the workplace."

Some of the community's residents reacted. 

"For someone who is getting paid a non-living wage, regardless of how low it is, and living in conditions that they have to accept because they have no other choice, it’s a huge stressor," said Suzanne McKell, who lives in Half Moon Bay.  

Some said they should be paid better. 

"The work wouldn’t get done without them. Americans don’t want to do this work. These people do. I have a lot of empathy for them, for their values, their work ethic, I respect it. They should be paid for the hard work that they do," said John Scott, a former Half Moon Bay resident.  

"The couple that comes from China, right? The immigration, they have a lot of life difficulties. I just feel so sorry those things happened," said Jian Cai, who lives in Half Moon Bay. 

Supervisor Mueller also said in his tweet that he plans to improve the lives of farmworkers, just as he promised during his recent campaign. KTVU reached out to Mueller for comment but didn’t hear back from him in time for this report.  

KTVU's LaMonica Peters contributed to this report.