Familias Unidas por la Justicia, ¡Presente!

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Farmworkers Picket at the entrance of Labor Camp 2. Photo by Edgar Franks.

The ability to make life in the face of death is a quality that is unique to those who have suffered, those who have lived without, and those who have known despair.

In an unprecedented turn in ongoing negotiations between Sakuma Brothers Farms and the over 200 migrant farmworkers we have come to know as Familias Unidas por la Justicia (United Families for Justice), Ryan Sakuma shut down negotiations with Familias Unidas por la Justicia with an ultimatum: Either they accept $3.50 per flat or leave.

Farmworkers reported the arrival of carloads of newly recruited migrant workers from California. They apparently made the 18 hour trek after hearing that Sakuma Brothers Farms was hiring.

Ryan Sakuma asked Ramón Torres, the president of Familias Unidas por la Justicia to submit a list of names of those who were leaving by Thursday, July 25 2013 so that he could refund their deposit for the cabins they live in and be on their way.

The farmworkers refused the ultimatum in a dramatic stand off at the entrance to labor camp 2, where Ryan Sakuma was denied entry by the tenants. Angelica Villa reported that Mr. Sakuma was asked if he planned to mow the farmworkers over, while the farmworkers stood their ground. Villa reminded Sakuma that he had been the one to break the transparency of the negotiations by hiring third party consultants Ermelindo Escobedo, Raul Calvo and Mario Vargas to come between the employer and united pickers, an accusation to which Ryan Sakuma conceded.

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Deputy Sheriff T. Esskew poses with Labor Consultants Raul Calvo and Mario Vargas. Photo by Tomás Madrigal.

As the stand off came to a crescendo, Skagit County Sheriff’s were called to the labor camp in hopes they would intervene on the employer’s behalf. The Sheriff’s arrived to find highly organized and “peaceful” farmworkers exercising their freedom of speech and association.

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Bernardo Ramirez Bautista (FIOB) delivers an international solidarity address. Photo by Tomás Madrigal.

Indeed, an action that Sakuma executives hoped would break the will of the migrant farmworkers, has only served to fan the flame. Farmworkers made a ceremony out of their peaceful demonstration, organizing a picket line at the entrance of the labor camp in which many live, complete with a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint. In a grassy field, farmworkers sang together and encountered members of the press, an international correspondent from the Binational Indigenous Organizations Front (FIOB), and truckloads of strike relief donations and good hearted community volunteers coming to bear witness to this labor struggle.

The camp as a result is in high spirits. No one is expecting to leave. No one is expecting to return to work. Until all of their grievances have been met, and a good faith effort to restore their dignity as a community is engaged by their employer, Sakuma Brothers Farms.

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After almost 2 weeks of negotiations with Sakuma Bros. Farms, the farmworker rights committee has been told their options are to accept wages as is or leave! Join us in supporting these courageous farmworkers as they continue to stand up for dignity!

What can you do?

Spread the word! Share these posts! Get the word out that Sakuma is not willing to support workers! Call the farm at 360.757.6611 and urge them to change their practices and support the current farmworker rights committee!

We need folks to SHOW their solidarity! The current picket line is at 1302 A Benson Rd., Bow, WA. Bring umbrellas and other ways to make shade. Water and cold drinks.

Donate to the Workers Strike Fund!

Donate to the Sakuma Workers’ Fund. Go to http://www.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 “Sakuma Workers’ Fund” to 203 W. Holly Street, Ste. 317, Bellingham, WA 98225.

Contributions of food. Prepared meals, groceries and fresh produce all appreciated. Disposable diapers (sizes 1-5). Large quantity shampoo, laundry soap, toilet paper, and other sundries. Gas cards. Gift cards to purchase food at Costco or local grocers.

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