Farmworkers enter sixth day of work stoppage, gain victories, negotiations continue.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Rosalinda Guillen
Community to Community Development
Phone (360) 738-0893
decomunidad@qwestoffice.net 203 W. Holly, Ste 317
Bellingham, WA 98225

Farmworkers enter sixth day of work stoppage, gain victories, negotiations continue.

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Farmworkers gained relief yesterday from harassment by supervisor. Photo by Edgar Franks.

Burlington, WA, July 15, 2013: Farmworkers were put at ease yesterday with the transfer of Antonio Lopez to another work crew. Sakuma Brothers Farms president Steve Sakuma joined the negotiation table on Sunday July 14, 2013.

The strike committee made progress on the negotiation of the transfer of labor camp youth from the fields as pickers into light duty positions. Sakuma executives requested a list of all youth 16 and over planning to apply to these positions to be compiled by committee member Ramon Torres. This development is a step forward in building equity between indigenous farmworkers and teenage summer hires. As of Saturday’s negotiations, Sakuma executives agreed to remove teenage summer hires from positions as checkers to other light duty positions as part of the negotiation of demand number three.

Wage negotiations continue. Sakuma executives committed yesterday to changing the process of how the price per pound is set. The committee will delegate three pickers of varying ability to conduct test runs with supervisor José Rivera to set piece rate wages for fields that will be picked the next day. Under this process pickers would participate in setting piece rates and pickers who choose not to pick at those rates for a particular field would not be dismissed.

On Friday, Sakuma Brothers Farms executives agreed to evaluate back wage grievances to address disparities with workers who can demonstrate errors on their paychecks due to miscalculation at the scales.

Sakuma Brothers Farms executives also assured the workers that there would be no reprisals for the work stoppage. A total of 175 confirmed workers have stopped work for the past six days and their ranks grow daily as the struggle continues.

The strike committee plans to meet with Washington State representatives Kristine Lytton and Mike Sells at the Skagit Public Utility District (PUD) building, 1415 Freeway Dr, Mount Vernon, WA 98273, tonight at 6:00 PM.

A celebration of recent gains will take place on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. We are asking for donations of food for this celebration and your presence in solidarity is welcome.

Representatives from the Indigenous Binational Front of Oaxaca (FIOB) will be meeting with the strike committee later this week.

The strike committee has been spreading their stories via radio interviews most recently on radio KSVR and KDNA.

A Message from the Farmworkers:
We appreciate the respect that the Sakuma executives have given us during these negotiations and we want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the support that the solidarity community has given us and ask that you continue to support our continuing struggle for dignity.

STRIKE COMMITTEE LIST OF GRIEVANCES

    1. Que no corran a Federico Lopez. Demand Met/ Cumplida
    For Federico Lopez not to be fired.

    Federico Lopez was unjustly fired on July 10, 2013. This violates labor regulations governing retaliation by employers over worker grievances. Federico Lopez should be made whole, including being reinstated as a picker, with restoration of any pay, and supervisors should cease and desist retaliation as required by law.

    2. Que nos suban más por libra, 70 centavos. In Negotiation/ En Negociación
    We want a higher rate per pound, 70 cents.

    Sakuma Brothers Farms set a piece rate wage at .30 cents per pound at the beginning of the blueberry harvest, pickers are struggling to make the minimum wage of $9.19 per hour at this rate in an 8 hour period. This violates Washington state minimum wage requirements. Pickers should be made whole, by being paid at least the equivalent of $9.19 an hour for their time picking berries.

    3. Quitar el scaner y poner tarjetas. In Negotiation/ En Negociación
    To remove scanners and use paper tickets.

    Sakuma Brothers Farms has introduced electronic scanners in place of paper tickets for documentation of pounds picked which calculates their wages. This new system hampers the picker’s ability to keep track of their production and limits their ability to dispute inaccurate entries. This violates workers rights to wage transparency. Pickers should be made whole by returning to paper tickets and the removal of underage youth from checker positions.

    4. No más intimidación a los trabajadores. Demand not met
    To cease intimidation of workers.

    Pickers have experienced harassment based upon race and indigenous identity in the workplace. This violates state laws against harassment and a hostile workplace and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Sakuma Brothers Farm policy against intimidation and violence in the workplace. Pickers should be made whole, including but not limited to, enforcement of company policy and Sakuma Brothers Farm should cease and desist racial and ethnic harassment as required by law.

    5. No queremos a Antonio Lopez como mayordomo. Demand Met/ Cumplida
    We want Antonio Lopez removed as a crew boss.

    Pickers have identified crew boss Antonio Lopez as being unbearably hostile. This violates state laws against harassment and a hostile workplace and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pickers should be made whole, including but not limited to, the dismissal of Antonio Lopez as a supervisor.

    6. Mejor trato a los trabajadores, respeto, lugar limpio, cabinas con mejor condiciones, no gritos ni amenazas. Demand not yet met

    Better treatment of workers, respect, clean place to live, better maintained conditions, no yelling or threats.

    Pickers want to be treated with human dignity in the workplace and labor camps. Substandard living accomodations, unsanitary facilities, and racialized hostilities violate the migrants human rights. Pickers should be made whole, including but not limited to, maintenance and betterment of labor camp by Sakuma Brothers Farms and that labor camp managers cease and desist hostility and harassment as required by law.

    7. No forzar a trabajar en tiempo de enfermedad. No tocar las puertas. Demand not yet met
    Not to be forced to work when they are sick. Not to knock on doors.

    Pickers have been denied sick leave. This violates workers human rights. Pickers should be made whole, including but not limited to, supervisors cease and desist the practice of knocking on the door of sick workers to force them to work.

    8. No obligar a traer comprobantes por falta de trabajo. Demand not yet met
    To not require proof for missing work.

    Pickers have been unjustly required to provide professional documentation for missing work. This violates workers right to privacy. Pickers should be made whole by a discontinuation of the practice of requiring professional documentation for absences.

    9. No falta de respeto a los trabajadores. Demand not yet met
    Do not disrespect workers.

    Indigenous pickers are not treated with respect at Sakuma Brothers Farm. This violates their human dignity and violates state anti-harassment and anti-hostility laws. Workers should be made whole, including but not limited to, the cease and desist of disrespectful and racist language such as “oaxaquita,” “indio,” “estupido,” and the use of stereotypes around inherent “laziness,” “drunkeness,” or “dirtiness” of Triqui and Mixteco farmworkers by Sakuma Brothers Farm executives, administrators, crop management, crew bosses, checkers and co-workers via receiving mandatory sensitivity and undoing racism training, and dismissal following failure to comply.

    10. No intimidación por la parte de mayordomos. Demand not yet met
    No intimidation by supervisors.

    Pickers have experienced racialized and gendered harassment and hostility by their supervisors, for example yelling and screaming at women in front of their husbands. This violates state laws against harassment and hostile workplaces and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as Sakuma Brothers Farm policy against intimidation and violence in the workplace. Workers should be made whole, including but not limited to, supervisors ceasing and desisting harassment based on race and gender as required by law and also receive mandatory effective sensitivity and undoing racism training, and dismissal following failure to comply.

    11. Si nos corren que nos pagen todo y pasajes por venir y de regreso. Demand not yet met.
    If we are fired we want our travel expenses to be paid roundtrip.

    Pickers are concerned that they will be fired for work stoppages, complaints, grievances and demands for better wages. This violates the workers good faith in negotiating their wages with their employer, their freedom of association, and anti-retaliation labor law. Workers should be made whole should they be fired for striking, by being reimbursed roundtrip cost of transportation required to migrate to work out of state that were incurred in order to work for Sakuma Brothers Farms.

    12. Porque no trajeron a trabajadores huespedes a la fresa? Demand not yet met.
    Why didn’t Sakuma Brothers Farm request guestworkers for the strawberry harvest?

    Sakuma Brothers Farms has applied for H2A workers for the blueberry harvest in August. Pickers want to know why the farm had not applied for H2A workers for the strawberry harvest if there was a labor shortage. The pickers claim that there is no labor shortage and that it is unfair that guestworkers are getting paid $12.00 per hour, while they are earning a maximum of $9.19 per hour.

    13. Que pagen overtime. Demand not yet met.
    To be paid overtime.

    Pickers routinely work over 40 hours a week without overtime compensation. This violates state minimum wage and federal labor laws. Workers should be made whole, by being paid overtime and restoration of any pay that is owed.

    14. Problemas con child care. Demand not yet met.
    Problems with child care.

    Pickers have experienced problems with child care. This interferes with their ability to work as much as they are required. Workers should be made whole, including but not limited to, adequate child care or reasonable working hours.

Solidarity statements can be forwarded to Community to Community Development by e-mail at decomunidad@qwestoffice.net;

Farmworkers have been on work stoppage for six days, they have gone without wages for that period of time. At this time we are asking for contributions of food, sundries and disposable diapers. Gift cards to purchase food at Costco or local grocers are much appreciated.

Durable goods can be delivered directly to Labor Camp 2 at 1302A Benson Road, Burlington, WA 98338.
We are also requesting support in our transportation costs via gift cards for gas or contributions to the strike fund.

To contribute to the strike fund, access http://foodjustice.org click on the “donate” button to the right of the screen or send a check written out to Community to Community Development labeled “Strike Fund” to 203 W. Holly Street, Ste. 317, Bellingham, WA 98225.

Blogs on the Labor Dispute:
https://karani.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/triqui-and-mixteco-strawberry-pickers-on-strike-for-dignity/
https://karani.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/who-is-federico-lopez-initial-round-of-negotiations-with-sakuma-brothers-farm-results-in-reinstatement-of-striking-strawberry-picker/
Skagit Valley Herald Articles:
http://www.goskagit.com/all_access/farm-workers-strike-over-wages-treatment/article_67926fbd-fab3-5e7c-a66c-3994baf9d153.html?mode=story
http://www.goskagit.com/all_access/sakumas-workers-reach-partial-agreement/article_48ac12ef-8260-534e-9018-16eed1e61a29.html?mode=story

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