Friday, July 3, 2015

Farmworkers at Sakuma Berry Farms Demand Negotiations with Management

July 2nd, 2015 Contact: Rosalinda Guillen 360-381-0293

Farmworkers at Sakuma Berry Farms Demand Negotiations with Management 

Burlington, WA – Today, as a result of negotiation between Familias Unidas por la Justicia and Sakuma management in the fields, over 200 farmworkers received punch cards to verify the exact number of pounds picked on a daily basis. The company also agreed to stop the new practice of having workers begin their day in groups of 15 minute intervals. However the negotiations fell apart on the demand from the workers to pick 15 lbs to earn the $10 per hour minimum wage; Sakuma management refused to negotiate and continued to insist on 35lbs minimum for the $10 per hour wage. A session of over an hour produced a stalemate and the workers walked out in frustration. Then Familias Unidas por la Justicia Vice-President Felimon Pineda, with the entire group,  marched back into the fields led by him to deliver a formal written demand for a negotiation of a union contract. 
The company responded harshly by bringing additional upper management, lawyers, and by calling the Skagit County Sheriff’s office. Felimon Pineda led a peaceful assembly requesting a negotiation session for a union contract, when the company refused to negotiate, the workers peacefully exited the company property and moved on to a  boycott of Driscoll picket line at a Costco in Burlington.
In a meeting with allies and union leadership, the workers collectively agreed to return to work tomorrow and try to negotiate a lower number of pounds per hour for the $10 minimum wage established by the company. The workers raised concerns on the 35 lbs per hour required; some of the women pickers spoke to the Union leadership about this requirement being inhumane production standards and also the unhealthy impacts they have begun to feel as they rush to meet the 35lb limit due to the high temperatures. Several women reported having felt throbbing headaches and fatigue in the last week.
“It is hard for us to keep working fast to be able to pick 35 pounds an hour, sometimes we feel sick” said a farm worker woman who migrated to Skagit County with her family from California, to escape the high heat “ I thought it would be cooler, in California they were not asking us for a minimum number of pounds per hour, we were getting paid a straight $10 hr. – when they recruited us to come here they told us we would be able to earn $17 hr., that is why we agreed to come to Sakuma, we were tricked” she was afraid to identify herself for fear of reprisals since she also was not told of the labor conflict at Sakuma Berry Farms.  The workers agreed that no one should put their health in danger to meet Sakuma's 35 pounds per hour requirement. 

Pictures and video available in Community to Community Facebook page 
The workers are planning the Third Annual March for a Union Contract on July 11th. Details for the march:
Article on the work stoppage and negotiation from last week:…/sakuma-workers-win-better-condit…/   

Maru Mora Villalpando
Latino Advocacy

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