Press Release: ¡HUELGA! Mixteco and Triqui Pickers commence third General Strike at Sakuma Brothers Farms

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 rally after walking off the fields. Video by Maru Mora-Villalpando.

Burlington, WA, September 13, 2013: Families United for Justice report today that 300 berry pickers located at Labor Camp 2 on the Benson Road are continuing their strike for farm worker justice in Skagit County.

This past week, Familias Unidas por la Justicia farmworkers held two separate workplace work stoppages over wages at Sakuma Bros. Farm, one with 150 blueberry pickers and another with 200 blackberry pickers. Both strikes gained wage increases of $1.00 and $0.75 respectively.

On Thursday September 12, 2013, committee member Felimon Pineda reported that Familias Unidas por la Justicia President Ramon Torres was summarily fired for his role in the strikes. Farmworkers contend that Torres was fired for refusing to negotiate proposed minimum productivity requirements that grower Ryan Sakuma sought to implement as a condition of the wage increase. Torres saw this as a productivity “speed up” that not all pickers would be able to meet, putting at risk their ability to work.

Pineda reported that he was there when the Skagit County Sheriff arrived to escort Torres to meet with the Sakumas and to remove him from the property. Piñeda said, “this is why they fired him, they [Sakuma executives] didn’t want to see him in the fields.”
Even with the gravity of the situation, the farmworkers were in good spirits yesterday, the first day of the strike. As they rallied, the committee members asked, “¿Nadie va trabajar?/is everyone going to stop work until this matter is resolved?” to which the crowd of 300 farmworkers unanimously answered “¡Si!/ Yes!” as they cheered each other on for encouragement.

The workers are asking the employer to return to the bargaining table in order to resolve the issue of fair wages, a just contract, and a halt to current and any future retaliation for exercising worker rights.

Tomorrow, September 14, the local community and the workers are holding a rally and march for justice. They will assemble at 12:00 p.m. at the Cook Road exit from I5 (exit 232). The march will then proceed approximately .8 miles to the Sakuma Brothers Berry Farm Stand where a petition asking for fair wages, a just contract and a halt to current and any future retaliation will be presented.

ORIGINAL STRIKE COMMITTEE LIST OF GRIEVANCES

    1. Que no corran a Federico Lopez. Demand Met July 13, 2013
    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. Demand not met – Rate per box raised to $4.00 a flat then lowered to $3.50 a flat.
    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. Demand Not Met – management agreed to review paycheck stubs
    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 —— como mayordomo. Demand Met July 14, 2013
    We want disrespectful supervisor 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 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 accommodations, unsanitary facilities, and racialized hostilities violate the migrant’s 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 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 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 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 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 paguen todo y pasajes por venir y de regreso. Demand not met.
    If we are fired we want our travel expenses to be paid round-trip.

    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 round-trip 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 met.
    Why didn’t Sakuma Brothers Farm request guest workers 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 guest workers are getting paid $12.00 per hour, while they are earning a maximum of $9.19 per hour.

    13. Que pagen overtime. Demand not 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 in industry. Because farm workers are excluded, they should be made whole, by being paid overtime and restoration of any pay that is owed by Sakuma Bros. Farm.

    14. Problemas con childcare. Demand not met.
    Problems with childcare.

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

In The News:

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