FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Rosalinda Guillen
Community to Community Development
Phone (360) 738-0893
203 W. Holly, Ste 317
Bellingham, WA 98225
August 16, 2013, 9:00AM PST
Familias Unidas por la Justicia Leaders refuse to work today to protest against Wage Theft in progress.
Familias Unidas por la Justicia members who are protesting Sakuma breech of faith. Photo by Rosalinda Guillen.
Burlington, WA, August 16, 2013: Several brave members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia refused to work today at Sakuma Brothers Farms in protest of what they consider to be a breech of faith against a recent agreement signed by Sakuma Brothers Farms director John Sakuma and Familias Unidas por la Justicia president Ramon Torres on August 14, 2013. The farm workers see this as a lack of recognition of the worker’s voices and negotiation for a living wage.
Some of the farmworkers who are part of Familias Unidas por la Justicia were so desparate that they could not afford not to work. Rosalinda Guillen stated on August 15, 2013, “The families are broke! There’s no amount of support we can give them that can make up for lost wages due to the labor dispute.” The families were forced to accept a lower wage than they were promised in order to survive, this according to the committee is a breech of agreement. Ramon Torres, president of Familias Unidas por la Justicia claimed, “Refusing to pay .48 cents a pound as determined by the test pick with the suprevisors is like taking food from our childrens mouths.”
The agreement states that no farmworker would “receive reduced work hours or receive reduced opportunities in the current or any following season.” In a previous agreement on July 25, 2013, the owners of Sakuma Brothers Farm agreed to base the price per pound on $12.00 an hour minimum wage beginning on August 5, 2013.
The committee claims that Ryan Sakuma breeched this good faith written agreement facilitated by former federal mediator Richard Ahern, when Ramon Torres and two other members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia completed a field test with a supervisor at 2:00pm on August 14, 2013. By 3:00pm the field test crew and the supervisor had collaboratively calculated a piece rate of .48 cents per pound using a process established as company policy by the committee and Ryan Sakuma on July 25, 2013. Ryan Sakuma refused to agree to pay the piece rate of .48 cents per pound, saying that he was only obligated to pay .40 cents per pound.
Ryan Sakuma argued that he was only obligated to pay Familias Unidas por la Justicia based upon the state mandated $9.19 per hour minimum wage. This calculation is the difference between the .48 cents per pound and .40 cents per pound piece rate for blueberries. For the farmworkers this is the difference between a living wage that they had negotiated in good faith, equal to the pay of H-2a guestworkers.
Current long-time farmworker employees of Sakuma Brothers Farms reported that the H-2a guest workers arrived Wednesday night and on Thursday were escorted by private security. They also reported that a barbed-wire fence has been erected by the company between Labor Camp 1 that houses some migrant workers and Labor Camp 3 where the H-2a guest workers are being housed.
Familias Unidas por la Justicia are available to talk to the media, please call president Ramon Torres at (360)610-9666 or Rosalinda Guillen at (360)381-0293 or leave a message at (360)738-0893.