Saturday March 29th, several representatives from Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Familias United for justice) with 20+ Western Washington University students (WWU Students for Farm worker Justice) standing in solidarity, picketed outside of The Food Pavilion in Lynden, Washington. They were there protesting the presence of Sakuma Bros. Berry Farms products on the shelves, as well as Haagen Dazs who uses the farm’s berries for their strawberry flavor ice cream.
The workers from Familias Unidas have been on a year long strike protesting wage theft, dismal wages, racist working environments, and Sakuma Bros. Berry Farms’ move to hire H2A guest workers to replace the existing workforce. They are fighting for a union contract guaranteeing them better wages, no retaliation for the strike, as well as not replacing them with guest workers. According to the law, the farm CANNOT hire guest workers during a strike, though they continue to push the application.
We are reaching out to you all to help spread the word and join in the boycotting of Sakuma Bros. Berry Farms products until the workers have gained a binding contract guaranteeing just working conditions.
Sakuma Bros. Berry Farms @ 360-757-6611
Haagen Dazs @ 800-767-0120
Please contact them and let them know that as conscientious consumers, you cannot purchase their products until Sakuma Bros. Berry Farms improve their practices!
Seattle’s source for breaking news video on demand from KING 5 TV and KONG 6/16. KING5.com
OK so I have been following the unfolding struggle at Sakuma Brothers by their workers to form a union, which is in many ways a historic first in Washington State and, I think, around the country. The majority of Familias Unidas Por La Justicia (FUJ) are indigenous Triqui and Mixteco farmworkers who have migrated to the US from Oaxaca.
Their union, FUJ, was formed last year over the course of strikes and work stoppages at the farm. Sakuma deployed what are basically Pinkertons to monitor them in the fields, in the labor camps, and, when they went to march, to follow the workers on their march route (a judge ruled this to be a violation of the Little-Norris LaGuardia Act).
This year, as the workers are applying for their jobs back in the new season, Sakuma has attempted to bring in H-2A guestworkers to displace them (the Department of Labor found their application “deficient” partially because of the availability of local labor and Sakuma ultimately withdrew the application), tried to disqualify the workers who went on strike for missing five days (they tried changing their story in front of the judge, who forced them not to disbar any workers who went on strike last year for missing time), settled out of court for a historic settlement of $850,000 over documented wage theft against workers, and most recently tried to change their housing policy to discriminate against workers with families (which overwhelmingly discriminates against their workers who went on strike last year, who have been picking at Sakuma for many years in a row now and have always been granted access to family housing for a deposit), which a judge last week ruled was discriminatory and forced them to open housing to workers with families.
As the news coverage above documents, Sakuma has not complied with this latest order and may be personally liable for jail time because of their failure to comply with the court’s order. While they have been in violation of this latest court order, they have opened their fields and are permitting the public to pick for free, as though this was a better deal for them than hiring unionized workers who are willing to fight wage theft, retaliation, and intimidation.
In addition to all of this Sakuma is trying to get workers to sign yellow dog contracts, which were outlawed in the 1930’s at the federal level. A yellow dog contract forfeits a worker’s right to organize in order to secure employment. A court hearing is scheduled for the matter.
Bellingham, WA – Farmworker families in northwest Washington have brought their berry boycott to Costco Wholesale, a respected Washington grocer that purchases berries from Driscoll’s, global small-fruit supplier that sources berries from Sakuma Bros. Farms and from several farms in the San Quintin Valley in Baja California, Mexico where there are ongoing labor disputes over unfair wages and wage theft, mistreatment and sexual harassment in the workplace, and against the dependency upon child labor for production.
A small independent farmworker union called Familias Unidas por la Justicia began their boycott of Sakuma Bros. Farms berries in 2013, successfully forcing the firm to discontinue selling fresh market berries with under their own label. In 2014, after discovering that the firm had shifted production towards processed berries and began packing fresh market berries exclusively into Driscoll’s label cartons, the farmworker union began to focus their campaign on Driscoll’s because the wholesaler refused to meet the union’s demands, stating instead that they fully supported Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc. and had not found any wrongdoing via their corporate audits of their supplier. A finding that the Skagit Valley Superior Court’s legal register disproves when it comes to the firm interfering with the farmworker’s right to engage in concerted activity, reprisals, their tenant rights, and the firm’s failure to follow Washington state’s legislation regarding paid rest breaks. Meanwhile, the farmworker union’s boycott campaign convinced five US cooperative grocers and the University of Washington to discontinue sourcing berries from Driscoll’s by early 2015.
On March 17, 2015 over 50,000 Mexican farmworkers organized a general strike in Baja California’s San Quintin Valley in the berry fields of Driscoll’s subsidiaries, BerryMex and MoraMex, Reiter Affiliated Companies along with several other fruit and vegetable growers in the region. As a result, J. Miles Reiter, the owner of the subsidiaries, stepped down as CEO of Driscoll’s on March 31, 2015 and was replaced by Kevin Murphy. The powerful strike immediately impacted the supply chain for all fresh market commodities in California on the U.S. side of the border.
On April 8, 2015 the emerging independent farmworker union named La Alianza de Organizaciones Nacionales, Estatales, y Municipales por la Justicia Social joined forces with Familias Unidas por la Justicia by announcing their endorsement of the Driscoll’s boycott and calling for it’s expansion to an international scale. Familias Unidas por la Justicia leadership had reached out in solidarity to the emerging union shortly after the strike because their extended family members who lived in the San Quintin Valley had participated in the strike and were reporting incidents of reprisals.
The Driscoll’s Boycott Campaign began in 2014 when Familias Unidas por la Justiciafarmworkers reported that Sakuma Bros. Farms had stopped packing fresh market berries into their company label and instead packed strawberries into blank and blueberries, blackberries and raspberries into Driscoll’s label cartons during the 2014 harvest. In August 2014, the Seattle boycott committees called upon consumers to ask Driscoll’s to intervene at Sakuma Bros. Farms by revoking their contract with Driscoll’s until the labor dispute was resolved. Driscoll’s representatives responded quickly, by saying that they fully supported Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc. and had dedicated financial resources to the farm to meet its standards of production.
This led to a stronger campaign that resulted in six cooperative grocers at 7 locations discontinuing their contracts with Driscoll’s in Washington, Oregon, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. The boycott was also endorsed in 2014 by 33 network organizations including the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and all of its member unions and the Domestic Fair Trade Association that includes other farmworker organizations, grocers, and farmers across the United States.
After the March 17, 2015 general strike in the San Quintin Valley in Baja California, the Driscoll’s Boycott gained an international foothold as the boycott took root across Mexico, in Canada, in Chile because of the ongoing Port Strikes, and in more areas in the United States, most notably the entire West Coast because unions that were strong supporters of the farmworkers such as the ILWU were in the middle of a port slow down and US Refineries across the United states organized by USW were involved in strikes of their own when this general strike broke out in Baja California. Areas where Driscoll’s had claimed “victories” in the prior decade against farmworker organization drives by the UFW in places such as Watsonville and Salinas in 1996-98 and in Saticoy and Oxnard in 2012 joined the boycott with a fervor because the stakeholders there had experienced first hand the oppressive working conditions, wages, and practices that the boycott and strikes in Washington and San Quintin Valley called to end.
The crisis for Driscoll’s allowed for their corporate strategies of production based upon exploitation to be made visible as the multi-national corporation struggled to maintain control over production on multiple planes of struggle including but not limited to rising fuel costs (USW strikes), port shutdowns and slowdowns (ILWU & Chilean Port Workers strikes), farmworker strikes (UFW in Saticoy, CA (2012), FUJ in Burlington, WA (2013-present), and La Alianza in San Quintin (2015-present)), and a growing educated consumer base observing the boycott of their label (2014-15).
Those doing the back breaking work to sustain our communities are being exploited for their labor. Wage theft, verbal and physical abuse, serious breach of employee rights, and retaliatory tactics by employers are commonplace; even in the face of workers striving towards a more just food economy by organizing and demanding improvements in their living and working conditions.
One such group of farm workers, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice) is making great leaps in this struggle for justice and dignity. As a coalition of over 460 farm workers, they went on strike over a year ago protesting the racist and degrading treatment they had been enduring for years at Sakuma Brother’s Berry Farms. This has been a long journey with many barriers: the lack of consumer knowledge/the farm workers invisibility to the public, the H2A Guestworker program that threatened to displace hundreds of families, retaliation from the farm by firing workers who expressed discontent, as well as legal battles in court. The list is exhaustive.
Familias Unidas por la Justicia needs our support during these trying times for this battle to continue. They have invested their livelihoods in this fight to better the conditions for themselves and hundreds of others doing this necessary work. Now it is our turn to act in solidarity with the families who provide us with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and the vast array of other produce we are privileged to enjoy. Community involvement and a student movement in solidarity with the farm workers (WWU Students for Farm Worker Justice) is testament to the growing strength and scope of the Familias Unidas leadership, as is the union’s constantly increasing membership.
Please support Familias Unidas por la Justicia in any way that is possible for you:
- Spreading the word by sharing the GOFUNDME campaign on other social media venues
- By contacting Sakuma Brothers Berry Farm and letting them know that you do not approve of their abusive and illegal labor practices: Send a letter: 17790 Cook Rd, Burlington, WA 98233 Call in: (360) 757-8004
Saturday, April 12, 2014- 20+ students from the group WWU Students for Farm Worker Justice came out to La Conner, WA for the annual Tulip Parade carrying signs that read “Farm Workers First,” “Boycott Sakuma,” and “Sakuma Steals Wages.” Their shirts, emblazoned with “Familas Unidas por la Justicia” showed that they were acting in solidarity with the local farm worker group comprised of over 300 primarily indigenous laborers.
The workers from Familias Unidas have been on a year long strike protesting wage theft, dismal wages, racist working environments, and Sakuma Bros. Berry Farms’ move to hire H2A guest workers to replace the existing workforce. They are fighting for a union contract guaranteeing them better wages, no retaliation for the strike, as well as not replacing them with guest workers.
The students began the parade with the seemingly benign stance of just supporting local farm workers, but as they hit the main strip of the parade, they unrolled large banners proclaiming their boycott of Sakuma Bros. Berry Farms. Their chants included, “HEY SAKUMA, why won’t you sign a contract?”, “Familias unidas jamas ceran vencidas/ Families united, will never be divided,” “Boycott Sakuma! Exploitation!”
For more information on the farmworkers’ struggle and what you can do to support:
Thursday, June 12th was a full day of picketing and passing out flyers at the Burlington Haggen to honks of solidarity. Later that evening, with the help of our local faith based supporters, WWU SFWJ finally managed to get a hold of the elusive farm president Ryan Sakuma at his home and held a silent vigil in solidarity with the farm worker families who will be homeless this season if the farm continues retaliating and denies them housing. The congregation members spoke with Sakuma asking that he come to the table and actually communicate with the farm workers. Sakuma stated that he would be willing to come to do so. Now it’s a matter of keeping his word, which hasn’t carried much weight in the past.
Hopefully the Sakumas will see the impact this will have not only on the farm worker’s families but their own if this struggle continues to be dragged out. The berry season has already begun and soon berries will be rotting in the fields if they don’t rehire the more than adequate workforce (460+ farm workers) ready and willing to work.
All they are asking is that their dignity as professional laborers is respected, that the racist abuse and wage theft they have had to endure will become a thing of the past, and that their families will be safe.
Sakuma Brothers Berry Farms has submitted an H2A application for over 400 guestworkers. If approved this would displace farmworkers and their families.
Here’s a sample of what you can call in and say:
Hello my name is ______ and I am calling to insist that the Sakuma Brothers Berry Farm application for H2A guestworkers is denied. This application must be denied as there is no labor shortage and an ongoing labor dispute.
I am asking that you uphold the rights of the workers and deny this application that would displace hundreds of workers and their families. Respect the 450 farmworkers who are willing and able to work, deny Sakuma’s H2A application!
We have 5 days to stop the H2A application and displacement hundreds of farmworkers and their families. Call now!
35+ WWU Students for Farmworker Justice joined with 65 migrant workers from Familias Unidas por la Justicia in protesting Sakuma Berry Farms recent 2014 application for Guest workers through the U.S. Guest worker program. Sakuma doesn’t need extra farm workers, what it needs is to respect the rights of the farm workers that it has been employing for years and stop robbing their wages. Familias Unidas por la Justicia demands humane working conditions, housing conditions, respect, and to be paid living wages.
Familias Unidas Por La Justicia is a farmworkers’ union of over 450 indigenous Triqui and Mixteco farmworkers. It formed out of a series of strikes which began last year on July 11, 2013, after a worker at Sakuma Brothers was fired for demanding a higher piece rate. There were six strikes in total last year.
During last year’s strikes, the strike committee issued a list of 14 grievances/demands. On the list were: a higher piece rate which would enable workers to earn the minimum wage; to cease using electronic scanners which led to workers not being paid wages they were owed; to be paid overtime per state and federal law; an end to practices which violate the Civil Rights Act and state laws against harassment and hostile work environments; and respect for indigenous Triqui and Mixteco farmworkers, who allege that they are routinely called by racist slurs and treated with disrespect.
Sakuma Brothers is the largest berry farm in Skagit County and sells berries to Haagen Dazs ice cream. There is an ongoing labor dispute and boycott of Sakuma berries and Haagen Dazs ice cream until Sakuma Brothers signs a union contract with Familias Unidas Por La Justicia
The struggle for a union contract with Sakuma is Familias Unidas Por La Justicia’s. The work we do as Students for Farmworker Justice in solidarity with Familias Unidas is to promote the consumer boycott of Sakuma products and Haagen Dazs (Haagen Dazs buys many of their berries from Sakuma). One of the ways we do this by reaching out to stores, informing the management of the boycott, and asking them to pull the berries. If the store does not pull the berries, we organize awareness-raising pickets aimed to inform the public of the boycott and to ask them not to purchase the products covered under the boycott.
A Skagit County judge found that changes made this year to Sakuma’s housing policy were discriminatory and ruled that Sakuma could not close its labor camps to the families of farmworkers. The changed housing policy excluded the vast majority of farmworker families who have been working at Sakuma for many years now and who are members of Familias Unidas Por La Justicia.
Although the camps have many problems, which the farmworkers attempted to address last year during the course of the strikes, it is our belief that Sakuma changed the housing policy to exclude farmworkers who were attempting to organize.
This year, Sakuma applied for 438 guest workers under the H-2A program, claiming that sufficient local labor was unavailable (the only legal reason to apply for guest workers under H-2A). However, the more than 450 farmworker families who joined Familias Unidas last year had all been clear about their intent to re-apply and delivered signed letters to this effect in order to demonstrate that Sakuma had not looked for local labor before applying for guest workers. The Department of Labor found Sakuma’s application to be deficient in multiple regards, and Sakuma ultimately withdrew the application. We contend that Sakuma could not reasonably have believed that there was a real shortage of labor given the circumstances.
During negotiations with Familias Unidas last year, Sakuma promised that there would be no reprisals against workers who went on strike and that a new piece rate would be set through a collaborative process involving farmworkers. However, after these assurances were given, Sakuma sent private security forces to the workers’ labor camps and followed them on public marches, which a judge ruled was a violation of Washington State labor law, and Sakuma refused to pay the piece rate they had agreed on with Familias Unidas. It was not until after Sakuma broke their promises and ended negotiations that the workers, through Familias Unidas, called for a consumer boycott of Sakuma products until Sakuma signs a union contract with Familias Unidas Por La Justicia.
The work that we are doing in solidarity with Familias Unidas por la Justiica is having a major impact. In order for Sakuma to recieve H2A guestworkers (which would displace Familias Unidas) the Deparment of Labor must approve their application 30 days before any workers can arrive. It is now less than thirty days before the Strawberry season begins and the DOL has found Sakuma’s application defunct on several counts!!!
Sakuma is appealing this in court so the fight is certainly not over, but this news is historic and huge! The workers have expressed sincere gratitude to us for the work we are doing and say that our support had a major impact on this decision!
This season , we formed Familias Unidas por la Justicia and presented to the world the reality of working for Sakuma Bros. Farms.
Rather than acknowledging our reality the Sakuma family is not willing to sit down with us. They know what they’re doing is wrong and shameful.
Instead, they engaged a Public Relations firm to spread disinformation about us and our self-organizing.
They don’t want the local community to find out that they have systematically stolen our wages, particularly our children’s wages, and blamed it on a “glitch”.
What do you call a “glitch” that has been going on for years? 3 days ago when we checked several pay stubs we found the same “miscalculations” of our wages – not just the young people but adults as well.
These “miscalculations” or “glitches” have been happening for years.
Every year counts for us – Berry picking like this takes our youth away.