12 May 2015

Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) Fights to Improve Working Conditions at Sakuma Brothers Farm



The IWW Whatcom-Skagit GMB is raising awareness of the poor working conditions endured by the members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) at Sakuma Brothers Farms.  They write:

For decades now, the farm workers at Sakuma Brothers berry farm in Skagit County have endured inadequate housing, systematic wage theft, and racist abuse from supervisors, among many other problems. In the summer of 2013, the farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms went on strike and formed a union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, of over 450 indigenous Triqui and Mixteco berry pickers. After a series of strikes there was a written agreement between Sakuma and FUJ. However, Sakuma reneged on their word to the workers. After Sakuma broke promises they made during a negotiation session, the farm workers of Familias Unidas por la Justicia voted to endorse a public boycott of Sakuma, Driscoll’s berries and Haagen-Dazs ice cream (both are major buyers/packers of Sakuma berries) until the labor dispute is resolved and the workers have a contract recognizing their union. 
The workers want a fair wage, health insurance, and respect on the job. In court, Familias Unidas has been recognized as a union with the right to organize and represent workers collectively. They have won landmark victories, including a settlement in which workers were collectively paid $500,000 in back wages and two rulings preventing Sakuma from changing their housing and hiring policies illegitimately. On the farm itself they have won several gains, such as the ability to take lunch breaks. However, these gains on the farm are now slipping as they have in the past. On February 3rd a farm workers tribunal took place in Olympia and members of FUJ spoke to state legislators about wage theft and working conditions at Sakuma Brothers Farm. The tribunal is an independent hearing by community judges that examines and provides judgments relative to human rights, labor rights, and civil rights abuses and the rights of peoples. The Farmworker Tribunal seeks to document and expose violations of state laws, civil rights, labor rights and human rights in Washington State’s Agricultural Industries. On March 17th in Toppenish the Washington State Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case (Demetrio et al. v. Sakuma Brothers Farms). This case will decide whether farm workers who are paid piece rate should also be compensated for rest breaks, as are wage workers in Washington State. The decision in this case will impact all Washington farm workers.

More info: http://boycottsakumaberries.com/campaign-updates/

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