ILWU Calls for Recognition of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, Calls on Sakuma to Negotiate

 

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Campesino Power by Pat Perry

(español sigue)

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Campesino Power, 2014, pen on paper, digital color

Made for striking Sakuma farm-workers in Washington, this poster is creative commons, with an English version in gold, a Spanish version in red, and a free download link to the printable versions.

“Sakuma Brothers Berry Farm in Burlington, Washington has refused to recognize the rights of its employees for decades despite near-yearly labor disputes, worker hospitalizations due to chemical exposure, and consistent wage theft. In 2013, the 400+, largely-indigenous Mexican workforce had had enough. After six strikes throughout the summer failed to produce fair wages and decent living conditions, the workers decided to call upon the Northwest community for support through the boycott of Sakuma Berries and its major distributors Driscoll Berries and Häagen-Daz Ice Cream. The workers’ self-formed, independent union Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice) is fighting not only for their rights and the rights  of their children, but also fighting for a fair and healthy food system for our country as a whole.

The industrial food complex wages genocide on true agriculture as if it were another plant disease to be eradicated by pesticides. Chemicals riddle our kitchen tables. Family farms diminish, their shuttered barns collapse under the influence of ‘modernity.’ Seeds lose their identity. All the while, agri-businesses like Sakuma Brothers gain a heady capital through the poverty of their employees, whose intensive manual labor concludes in an average farmworker life-span of fifty years.

Over 60% of the nation’s 1.4 million farm workers are foreign-born. Every year, families that are economically, politically and environmentally displaced from their communities migrate north, where they become second-class citizens forced into a cheap labor supply scheme shaped by poor immigration and labor laws. Those who work the land of opportunity must not remain invisible in our communities. The life they provide has been on our tables. It’s time we offer them a seat.”

-words by Madeline McClure

See: http://patperry.net/blog

PROJECT STATEMENT:

As many of you know I’ve [Madeline Burchet McClure] been tabling at farmer’s markets in support of an independent farmworker union which has formed outside of Bellingham at a big berry farm called Sakuma Brothers. Part of the project has been a collaboration with the Beehive Collective to create a poster that attracts, educates, and inspires. Hard copies are for sale by donation, all proceeds go to Familias Unidas por la Justicia, the union formed by Sakuma Brothers’ workers. If you would like a pdf of the poster to make prints yourself, or if you would like to have a hard-copy poster sent to you, please send me a message. The artwork is part of the ‘creative commons’, it is not copyrighted, so anyone can make prints for non-commercial use. Thank you to Pat Perry Art for the amazing artwork and design, and to Yul Rodrigo Gamboa for assistance with the translation! 

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RESUMEN DEL PROYECTO:
Muchos de ustedes saben que voy a los mercados organicos en apoyo de un sindicato independiente de trabajadores agrícolas que se ha formado cerca de Bellingham en una gran granja de bayas, se llama Sakuma Brothers. Parte del proyecto ha sido una colaboración con ‘el Colectivo Colmena’ para crear un cartel que atrae, educa e inspira. Están a la venta por donación, todos los ingresos van a Familias Unidas por la Justicia, el sindicato formada por trabajadores Sakuma Brothers. Si desea un pdf del cartel para hacer impresiones a ti mismo, o si le gustaría tener un cartel en papel enviada a usted, por favor envíeme un mensaje. El arte forma parte de los “bienes comunes creativos”, no tiene derechos de autor, por lo que cualquiera puede hacer copias para su uso no comercial. ¡Gracias a Pat Perry Arte en la obra de arte y el diseño increíble, y para Yul Rodrigo Gamboa para asistencia con la traducción!

ABOUT THE ARTIST: http://patperry.net/blog

Pat Perry is an artist from Michigan. He currently lives and works itinerantly in the USA, spending his time drawing, painting, playing, writing, and recording what’s left of the wild world. Although he is happy to be able to speak and have an audience through his artwork, he does his best everyday to listen and learn from the world he fell into during this rather peculiar and brief moment.

We must remain “unadapted.”

Contact:
hello@patperry.net

Legal Representation:
Roger C. Thompson, (616) 340-3730

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Update on the Labor Dispute At Sakuma

Update on the Labor Dispute At Sakuma.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. This year, Sakuma settled a lawsuit over allegations of wage theft and that Sakuma had denied workers breaks, agreeing to pay $500,000 to workers.
  6. A Skagit County judge found that Sakuma was retaliating against organizing workers by telling workers that they were ineligible to be re-hired for having missed five consecutive days − after the workers had gone on strike for six consecutive days. The judge ordered Sakuma to inform the affected workers that they were eligible to apply for work this season.
  7. 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.
  8. While the workers of Familias Unidas Por La Justicia have been available to work, many were unable to apply until Sakuma changed their hiring and housing policies back to what they had been in previous years, which Sakuma did not do until very late in the strawberry season and only after being ordered to do so by the courts. Sakuma claims that they have had to leave 400,000 pounds of strawberries in the fields this year because of a supposed labor shortage, but any lack of labor which Sakuma may have experienced this year was a product of Sakuma’s own policies, and not because of a lack of workers who are able and willing to work.
  9. The farmworkers went on strike of their own initiative. After the labor dispute began, the workers sought out the assistance of Community to Community, a Bellingham-based farmworker advocacy group. The Western Washington University and University of Washington branches of Students for Farmworker Justice were formed in response to the workers’ own union calling for a consumer boycott of Sakuma berries. We are advocates of justice for all farmworkers and a food system based on sustainability and fairness, and our role is to promote the consumer boycott of Sakuma products and to support Familias Unidas Por La Justicia’s efforts to organize, which began before C2C was involved or Students for Farmworker Justice even existed.
  10. We love berries too! We look forward to the end of the boycott and not having to organize more pickets of Sakuma products − after Sakuma has signed a union contract with Familias Unidas Por La Justicia.
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A Political Economy of Piece-Rates, Wage Theft and Profit in 21st Century Industrialized Agriculture

Burlington, WA – Sakuma Bros. Farms, like many large-scale farms, make most of their profit by minimizing the cost of labor. In order to do so, the industry advances two particular myths around piece-rates.

  1. That piece-rates are an incentive for farm workers to make more money
  2. That migrant farm workers who receive poor wages and treatment are free to change jobs at will.

The reality is that most piece-rates are determined heavily in the favor of the employer depending upon the quantity or quality that the employer desires for a particular harvest. The reality is that piece-rates in the industry of agriculture lead to an increased dependency upon child labor due to the incentive to maximize production that is often paid to the head of the family. The reality is that farm workers stress their bodies in order to meet onerous production standards. The reality is that migrant farm workers often enter debt agreements with formal and informal labor contractors to cover the cost of their travel over long distances to work for a specific grower, making them beholden to that grower and contractor until their debt is paid off.

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It is in these difficult working conditions that wage theft is facilitated, and it becomes clear that without piece-rates it would be difficult to steal wages in the harvest labor market.

Wage Theft

Interfaith Worker Justice defines wage theft as “the illegal underpayment or non-payment of workers’ wages.”

Seattle’s municipal code holds that a person is guilty of theft if:

  1. He or she steals the property of another; or
  2. By deception or by other means to avoid payment for services, he or she intentionally obtains services which he or she knows to be available only for compensation; or
  3. Having control over the disposition of services of others to which he or she is not entitled, he or she knowingly diverts those services to his or her own benefit or to the benefit of another not entitled thereto; or
  4. He or she knowingly secures the performance of services by agreeing to provide compensation and, after the services are rendered, fails to make full and complete payment, with intent to avoid payment for services.

Just two hours north of Seattle in Burlington, Washington it was only after the farm workers self-organized into an independent union where the negotiation committee compared multiple farm worker’s pay-stubs that they were able to see that other farm workers were being systematically shorted wages on their paycheck. It is important to note that many farm workers did not speak Spanish or English, even less so could they read.

The removal of white teenagers from “checker” positions after their first 7 day strike in July 2013 was a first step towards the resolution of an emerging wage and hour dispute. In doing so, the Sakuma executives made it appear that any discrepancies in pay were due to the individual human error of these teenagers and not the corporation.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia insisted that it was not just human error, their list of demands stated that they wanted the new biometric scales replaced with the traditional scale and punch card system of documentation, because they believed that they were being systematically shorted on the pounds of berries they produced and were not provided a physical piece of evidence that they could use to settle their accounts because their production record was in electronic format.

On July 31, 2013 after a second strike and a series of negotiations with retired federal mediator Richard Ahern, Familias Unidas por la Justicia was able to negotiate for over $5,000 in back pay to about 30 minors who had worked the strawberry season and had been shorted pay. Sakuma executives insisted that the wage theft had resulted because of a “computer glitch”.

Because the wage and hour dispute for the larger class of workers was not settled, and negotiations were terminated as soon as the farm received H-2A workers from Mexico limiting the impact of farm worker strikes. Two members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia filed a lawsuit on October 24, 2013. The farm workers accused Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc of engaging in a systematic scheme of wage and hour violations. Included in the lawsuit were allegations that Sakuma Bros. Farms failed to provide rest breaks, failed to keep accurate records of the actual hours worked, failed to provide pay statements with accurate statements of the actual hours worked, and failed to comply with agreed-upon working arrangements.

On June 11, 2014 the attorneys for both parties reached an $850,000 settlement on the wage and hour lawsuit. The settlement, which has to be approved by a federal judge, included the following stipulations for Sakuma Bros Farms.

  • Accurately track all hours worked by berry pickers
  • Accurately round the amount of hours worked
  • Provide clear pay statements that delineate piece rates and amounts of berries picked
  • Ensure that workers are given 30 minute breaks where they can leave the fields
  • Upon request from any piece-rate berry picker, provide the worker with documentation of his or her clock-in and clock-out time and quantity of berries picked
  • Guarantee that it will not retaliate against any worker participating in the lawsuit.

Piece-Rates

The original demand was to raise their piece-rate from 30 cents to 70 cents in order for the workers to collectively bargain for a more reasonable piece-rate. This demand was not met, but a compromise was established on July 25, 2013. On this day, Ryan Sakuma provided the workers with a new company policy memorandum.

7 25 13 policy

Prior to this policy change, Familias Unidas por la Justicia had demonstrated that the piece-rates determined solely by the harvest manager resulted in a production speed up where workers produced less than minimum wage in an 8 hour work day. Farm workers also held that the process was not transparent.

The new company policy for determining blueberry piece-rates required the following:

  1. Each time the workers entered a new field a new piece-rate would be determined by a test pick.
  2. A minimum of 3 berry pickers on the crew would also participate in the test pick with the harvest supervisor.
    • One picker would be a fast picker
    • One Picker would be an average picker
    • One picker would be a slow picker (picking at the speed equivalent to minimum wage)
  3. Based on the test pick the supervisor would recommend a piece-rate to the processing plant and sales manager and commercial manager.
  4. A piece-rate, based on the test pick, processing costs, and market value will be set and given to the harvest manager by Ryan Sakuma
  5. The piece-rate will be announced to all workers by the supervisor by the latest the night before picking is to begin.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia made a good faith effort to try the new, more transparent process for establishing piece-rates in the blueberry harvest because they had negotiated for their wages to be higher than minimum wage at $12.00 per hour. Just over a week later, Sakuma executives used local clergy as false witnesses that the labor dispute had been completely resolved and on August 4, 2013 80 guest workers arrived at Sakuma Brothers Farms. A week later, on August 14, 2013 Ryan Sakuma revoked the new company policy on setting piece-rates and told the farm workers they could accept his piece-rate or leave on the same day that John Sakuma signed a written agreement that there would be no reprisals or retaliations against the farm workers who went on strike.

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A Case Study on the Economy of Piece-Rates

Slide1
Market Prices v. Piece-Rates

  • The minimum wage in WA was $9.19 in 2013, or $72.53/day for 8 hours, including an unpaid 30-minute lunch and a paid 10-minute break for every 4 hours worked.

Piece Rates: A skilled (fast) labor camp 2 picker was only able to make 11 flats in 8 hours at a piece rate of $3.75 = $41.25/day without taking any breaks during the 2013 blueberry harvest at Sakuma Bros Farms. On this day, the fastest farm worker produced the equivalent of $5.16 per hour.

Market Price: for the same blueberry flat was $9.98 (Seattle Grocer).

11 flats at $9.98 = $109.78

The berry industry made a net profit of $68.53 from the sale of his 11 flats. Or the equivalent of $13.72 per hour. The farm, sales and the market made $8.56 per hour in profit from this worker producing berries. Overall, this worker was legally paid $4.03 per hour less than the equivalent of minimum wage.

Had the worker been paid the minimum wage the net profit would have been $37.25 for the 11 flats. That’s a 50% profit increase by paying piece rates instead of by the hour.

Lower Piece-Rates = Production Speed up

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The Profitability of Piece Rates + Wage Theft

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REALITY CHECK: A skilled picker earned $41.25/day and produced 11 flats.

  • Sakuma Bros Farms kept an additional $32.27 from the flats by not paying the picker by the hour.
  • Because the pickers did not take two legally mandated 10 minute breaks and (10 minute) prep time is not paid for they work an average of 30 minutes a day which is $9.19 X .5 = $4.60 in stolen wages.

On top of the $32.27 Sakuma (legally) under-payed the picker by imposing piece rates, the firm also (illegally) stole $4.60 from this worker for a total of = $36.87 per day.

There were 350 pickers, some of whom produced far below this skilled picker’s quota. Sakuma Bros Farm has the structural capacity to underpay workers by an average of $36.87 X 350 = $12,904.50 per day

The 2014 Sakuma H-2A Application and Piece-Rates

On May 21, 2014 in San Francisco, CA an Administrative Law Judge of the U.S. Department of Labor ruled to deny the Sakuma Brothers Farms and Washington Farm Labor Association’s application for H-2A workers on May 12, 2014.

The ruling found that the Sakuma Brothers Farms and Washington Farm Labor Association’s application was deficient in regards to three violations to Washington State and Federal Regulations. The first deficiency was that Sakuma Brothers Farm had eliminated family housing which violated Washington State housing discrimination laws; the second was that it had eliminated hiring youth for the harvest season in violation of Washington State laws against discrimination at the workplace; and the third ruling was that the productivity standards (piece rate wages) were unfair and onerous.

The farm had set piece rates at,

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On May 20, 2014 after an appeal by Washington Farm Labor Association on behalf of Sakuma Brothers Farms, a Federal Administrative Judge overturned this ruling, allowing the H-2A application to be processed so long as the ordered remediations were made.

Exploitative Rates of Pay:

In the original language of the Sakuma Brothers Farms H-2A application, the farm had a clause that stated the following:

Workers paid on an hourly basis who fail to perform their duties in a timely and proficient manner will be coached/instructed regarding how to pick faster and more efficiently, and will be provided additional training and up to three warnings to work more efficiently. Upon issuance of the third (3rd) warning the worker may be terminated, or may be offered fewer hours to work, but not below the three quarter (3/4) guarantee specified herein. The Employer will provide a 2-day training session “break-in-period” to reach the production standards cited herein. AR at P50.

After the farm was given a Notice of Deficiency (NOD) the grower changed the language to the following:

[W]orkers who do not produce a sufficient number of piece rate units to [sic] during a pay period will instead be paid on an hourly basis for the pay period. The Employer will provide a 2-day training session and workers will be allowed 4 days after the 2-day training session “break-in-period” to reach the production standards cited herein.

PRODUCTION STANDARDS: After completion of the training (2 days) and break-in-period (4-days), workers will be expected to work at a normal productive workman-like pace and keep up with the rest of the crew at a level of 90% of the average crew pace at the time that work is performed. If workers fail to keep up with the average crew after the above-referenced break-in-period, workers will be notified and can be terminated for failure to meet production standards in accordance with Employer’s progressive discipline policy. AR at P27.

The Certifying Officer (CO) stated regarding the deficiency:

If the employer who pays by the piece rate requires one or more minimum productivity standards for workers as a condition of job retention, such standards must be specified in the job offer and be no more than those required by the employer in 1977. Unless the OFLC Administrator approves a higher minimum, or, if the employer first applied for H-2A temporary labor certification after 1977, such standards must be no more than those normally required (at the time of the first Application for Temporary Employment Certification) by other employers for the activity in the area of intended employment. AR at P13.

Based upon the language presented by the application, the Certifying Officer (CO) believed that Washington Farm Labor Association and Sakuma Brothers Farms [Employers] were:

seeking to use a production standard that became more demanding with any increase in the AEWR Adverse Effect Wage Rate, which was an increase in expected productivity that offset the gains from a higher hourly wage, and was the type of conduct that the preamble to H-2A specifically seeks to prevent. The CO required Employer to remove the production standard, or provide a modified production standard that was specific, quantifiable, and consistent year-to-year. In addition, Employer had to remove any language that tied production standards to a minimum wage. AR at P13.

There was no evidence of applications prior to 1977, so the post-1977 rule applied. Also should the other deficiencies be resolved that the DOL “conduct a survey if required, or for a determination if it is normally required by other employers in the area of intended employment.” (17).

To this WAFLA and Sakuma Bros Farms appealed that the language they submitted complied in unbinding the wage and productivity standards. Further, the employer argued that the same language was approved in their application that they submitted the year before, though the AEWR declined. They argued that this made the standard less demanding in 2014 than 2013. Further that in Washington State there is no prevailing practice on strawberries, blueberry, blackberry, or raspberry harvests. AR at P27.

The court found that Washington Farm Labor Association and Sakuma Brothers Farms had not met its burden on this standard. The judge agreed with the interpretation of the Certifying Officer, ruling, “the standard in the H-2A application is impermissible” (17). The judge also found that WAFLA and Sakuma Brothers Farms had not demonstrated that its standard is “no more than those normally required…by other employers for the activity in the area of intended employment.” As required by regulation 20 C.F.R. § 655.122(I)(2)(iii). The judge ruled that the matter would be remanded to a survey for the determination of whether this proposed standard is normal in the berry industry.

Grower Lobby Campaigns to Defund Wage and Hour Enforcement Agencies

On June 5, 2014 a governor appointed Farm Work Group consisting of five grower advocates and five farm worker advocates convened in Ellensburg, Washington in where they learned the role of state agencies and discussed the issues of wage theft, pesticides, and retaliation.

As the daylong meeting progressed, it became clear that the grower lobby supported the legislative trend where certain state agencies involved in the enforcement of state laws were being underfunded and cut.

LnI – Labor and Industries is responsible the enforcement of state wage and hour laws. Their department is understaffed and underfunded.

ESD – The Employment Security Department is responsible for the oversight of H-2A applications and surveys growers to determine prevailing wages. The agency was accused of illegal activity by the grower lobbyist Scot Dilley during a special hearing in 2013. The department reported that they had the authority to consult legal opinions, however that due to recent budget cuts, they planned to discontinue monthly surveys during harvest.

DOH – The Department of Health was once responsible for keeping a record of pesticide related illnesses reported in Washington State from 2000 to 2010. The budget for this practice was cut by legislative order.

DOL – The Department of Labor is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal wage and hour laws. The grower lobby has repeatedly attacked the Department of Labor for enforcing labor laws.

WSDA – The Washington State Department of Agriculture, which is no longer an enforcement agency due to legislative restructuring at the request of the agricultural industry lobby, is the special interest groups gem and ideal model of a state agency. The agency currently focuses on conducting market research and development for the industry and provides education and outreach that attempts to place the responsibility for worker safety upon individual workers as opposed to the growers.

It became clear in this meeting that there were implications that Mike Gempler and Scott Dilley were key lobbyists in influencing state and federal legislators to defund enforcement agencies and to restructure state resources for the benefit of the agricultural industries largest growers.

The most recent endeavor was to defend the mis-use of the H-2A program to import labor when there was no immediate emergency or crisis; they based this upon the desire to move away from undocumented labor.

The second legislative endeavor that the grower lobby advanced at this meeting was an attempt to reallocate state resources dedicated to housing the public towards grower efforts to house anticipated W-visa workers should Comprehensive Immigration Reform proposed in S-744 be passed by congress.

The Bottom Line

Slide1

Profit is the driving factor in the agricultural industries choice to use piece-rates, and to influence oversight of state and federal regulations of wages. The case study above demonstrates that combined with illegal wage theft, one large berry growing corporation was capable of systematically increasing their earning potential by at least $12,904.50 per day during harvest.

We all know that wage theft is illegal. But even without wage theft, the corporation is able to increase their earning potential by $11,294.50 per day during the fresh market blueberry harvest of 2013 because they payed by piece-rate. This profit comes at the cost of workers ability to sustain themselves. A loss of $4.03 per hour adds up to $655.80 per month (160 hours), almost the equivalent of rent for a farm worker.

 

 

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How Familias Unidas por la Justicia was formed.

Video by Leonor Hurtado

Interview of Rosalinda Guillen on the formation of Familias Unidas por la Justicia.

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I love strawberries – Maximino Lopez Testimony

Video by Leonor Hurtado

Maximino López’s testimony. Maximino is a immigrant worker at Sakuma Berries Farm in Washington. For him and for all immigrant workers life is very difficult. We need to open our hearts, and know that GOOD FOOD is the food that gives workers what they deserve, fair wages and decent living conditions.

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Familias Unidas por la Justicia Champions Farm Worker’s Right to Work

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Demonstration outside of a Latino Civic Alliance Meeting. Photo by Chris Davis.

Mount Vernon, WA – In a series of three major victories for domestic farm worker’s right to work and to self-organize, a maturing independent union that represents over 460 farm workers, Familias Unidas por la Justicia has championed in the legal arena what has caused farm workers just over the cascades in eastern Washington to relocate and that has displaced thousands of domestic strawberry pickers in the state of Florida.

  1. On May 20, 2014 a federal administrative judge ruled that the Washington Farm Labor Association and its member, Sakuma Brothers Farms could not discriminate against farm workers based upon their age in order to apply for H-2A workers.

    Earlier in the spring of 2014, Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. had announced the discontinuation of a youth crew via public service announcement in the Skagit Valley Herald. The corporation had also sent individual letters in April 2014 announcing that youth below the age of 18 years old were not eligible to work in the fields.

  2. On May 22, 2014 a federal judge in Seattle ruled for immediate remand of the matter of Familias Unidas por la Justicia v. Sakuma Bros Farms to state superior court.

    Sakuma lawyers had filed a motion for the matter to be heard in Federal court because they contended that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as amended by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) held authority over State and Federal regulations in the matter of farm worker housing and the right to organize. The judge believed that it was Sakuma’s contention to deny a state’s right to rule on this by moving it to the federal court, therefore remanded the case to state court and ruled that Sakuma Bros Farms was to pay Familias Unidas por la Justicia’s attorney fees on the matter.

  3. On May 27, 2014 the Washington State Superior Court ruled on Familias Unidas por la Justicia v. Sakuma Bros Farms. The state approved a Temporary Restraining Order that required Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. to allow Familias Unidas por la Justicia members who went on strike in 2013 to apply to work at the farm.

    The Washington State Superior Court judge made her ruling based on three pieces of evidence presented in the case. The first was the letter that Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc sent to Familias Unidas por la Justicia farm workers who went on strike in 2013 denying them the right to work because they had missed five consecutive days.

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    This evidence was supported with member afidavits that their absences were when they were on strike.

    The second piece of evidence was a blog written by the company: http://sakumafacts.com.

    This, currently closed website states:

    However, we must ask why the very individuals who walked off the job last year because of alleged wage theft and mistreatment are now so eager to again work for Sakuma Brothers? The fact is that many of those who worked here last year have disqualified themselves. If they were part of the work disruptions, under the guest worker contract, they abandoned their jobs and are therefore not eligible to be rehired. We have mailed letters to 379 employees who worked for us in 2013 to inform them that they abandoned their jobs and have disqualified themselves from working for Sakuma this year.(See Cached Website)

    The third piece of evidence was a declaration by Ryan Sakuma, where he claims that the workers were denied the right to work because of their “failure to reach completion of [H-2A] contract.”

    The judge said that there were no records supporting his statement and that the arguments made by Sakuma’s legal counsel were “an exercise in semantics at best.”

    She ruled that because the farm workers were able to demonstrate a clear legal argument, a well grounded fear and that not being able to work would result in an actual substantial injury, that she would grant the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) requiring Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. to allow workers who were on strike last year to apply for work this year as protected by the Little Norris-Laguardia Act of Washington State.

In a nutshell, Familias Unidas por la Justicia was able to defend their right to work which their long-term employer Sakuma Brothers Farms was attempting to deny in retaliation for last year’s rolling strikes and ongoing boycott campaign in order to bring the corporation to the negotiation table for what the farm workers have decided is a fair contract that will prevent further abuse and maintain worker rights on the farm.

justicia para todos

If you are interested in supporting this independent farm worker union to continue their struggle please consider supporting the union financially, a monthly donation goes a long way in sustaining the independent union’s operating costs, research, and travel expenses to get the word out:

Donate to Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Also consider observing the farm worker’s boycott of Sakuma Brothers Berry products and tea:

Grocer’s Selling Sakuma Berries

When you buy berry products, make sure that they are not Sakuma Bros. Berries, buy berries that are produced in farms that do not exploit workers, and better yet, grow your own from plant stock that is not linked to Sakuma Brothers Farms until Familias Unidas por la Justicia secures a contract that guarantees that their rights as workers will no longer be violated.

THANK YOU!

Familias Unidas por la Justicia would like to offer a heart-felt appreciation to all of the individuals, families and organizations that have stood behind them on the long-haul. These small victories, with great impacts upon the larger industry, the legal recognition of farm worker’s right to self-organize into a union and to collectively bargain with their employer, was made possible because of your continued support.

¡Justicia Para Todos!- Justice for All!

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