Press Release: Farm worker brings class action over broken promises, denial of rest breaks, and failure to provide accurate information regarding hours worked

Raul Merino Camp 2 Cabin 66

Raul Merino and Silvia Dionicio. Photo by Star Murray.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Dan Ford, Attorney
Columbia Legal Services
Cell (206) 419-8951
Office (206) 287-9652
Email: dan.ford@columbialegal.org
www.columbialegal.org

Seattle, WA – October 27, 2013: Seeking to get Sakuma Brothers Farms to keep its promises to workers and follow the law, Raul Merino, on behalf of over 400 berry workers, filed a federal class action against the Skagit County farm on October 24, 2013. Workers at Sakuma have sought to improve their wages and working conditions since the beginning of this harvest season.

The suit alleges several violations of the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (“AWPA”) and Washington employment laws. Specifically, the suit charges that Sakuma systematically deprived field workers of their rest breaks. State law requires that workers receive a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for each four hours of work. In addition, the suit alleges that Sakuma failed to provide to Plaintiff Merino and other workers with accurate written statements of their hours worked, which would allow them to determine if they were paid properly under the law.

Merino also charges that Sakuma broke its agreement with farmworkers on setting the wages for blueberry picking. According to Merino, Sakuma and the workers agreed on a process to set a piece rate for blueberries based on a “test pick.” But, according to Merino, when the “test pick” resulted in a rate of 48 cents per pound for one field, Sakuma broke the agreement and decided it would pay only 40 cents per pound.

“I brought the case to seek justice for hundreds of workers who do hard work in the fields, without rest breaks, for low wages,” said Mr. Merino, who has worked at Sakuma since 2006. “With our low wages, it is especially hard to receive less than we are owed.”

Earlier this year, hundreds of Sakuma workers went on strike several times seeking better wages and working conditions. Part of that labor dispute ended in litigation. In October, Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer issued an injunction prohibiting Sakuma from placing security personnel in Sakuma labor camps where they could conduct surveillance of the labor camp residents.

Mr. Merino and the proposed farm worker class are represented by Terrell Marshall Daudt & Willie PLLC and Columbia Legal Services.

Terrel Marshall Daudt & Willie PLLC is a law firm in Seattle, Washington that focuses on complex civil litigation with an emphasis on employment law, including wage and hour litigation, consumer protection, product liability, real estate, and personal injury matters. The attorneys of TMDW have extensive experience in class actions, collective actions, and other complex matters. They have prosecuted a variety of class actions involving wage and hour violations. The defendants in these cases have included companies such as Wal-Mart, ABM Industries, Inc., Xerox Business Services, LLC, Autonation, Inc., and Precision Drywall, Inc.

Columbia Legal Services is a non-profit law firm that provides civil legal assistance to low income and vulnerable people in Washington State. Columbia Legal Services is a member of a statewide network of public and private organizations dedicated to making the promise of equal justice a reality for those who cannot afford legal counsel on important civil legal matters.

Questions regarding the lawsuit and requests for a copy of the complaint may be directed to Dan Ford of Columbia Legal Services at 206.287.9652 or 206.419.8951.

13 1027 news rel Merino

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