Farmworkers win round in court; Sakuma Bros. must end surveillance
BELLINGHAM (Sept. 26, 2013) — On Wednesday, Familias Unidas por la Justicia and individual plaintiff Felimon Piñeda won a significant court victory when Skagit County Superior Court Judge John M. Meyer ordered Sakuma Brothers Berry Farms to remove security guards from their housing.
After an emergency hearing, Judge Meyer issued a restraining order prohibiting Sakuma Brothers from engaging in further violations of Washington’s primary labor law, the Little Norris LaGuardia Act. (RCW 49.32.020) The Act prohibits employers from interfering with workers who are organizing themselves in order to improve their wages and working conditions. The judge ordered Sakuma to immediately remove security personnel from areas where they could observe or eavesdrop on the workers. They may not follow workers or community supporters of the workers on public roads and highways.
Triqui and Mixteco farmworkers have conducted work stoppages at Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. in protest of low piece-rate wages and hostile working conditions. They subsequently have called for a consumer boycott of the farm’s berries because management has refused to improve wages and working conditions, and instead has responded aggressively to quell the workers’ efforts to organize.
Familias Unidas and Piñeda asserted in court this week that the Sakuma Brothers hired security personnel to surveil workers and their supporters not only inside the residential labor camps, but also on public highways.
“Security does not belong in a camp with families. Our struggle is peaceful and for the future of our children,” said Felimon Piñeda, vice-president of Familias Unidas. The order issued Wednesday shows that employers who use scare tactics and intimidation are violating the law.
Furthermore, the Judge found that the workers have a right to choose their representatives for negotiations. He said that Familias Unidas has a legal right to give publicity to their labor dispute, such as the ongoing boycott and community outreach by Familias Unidas, as their strike continues. However, he declined grant injunctive relief on those two issues to at this time but has set another hearing on this matter for Oct. 8.
The families of Familias Unidas believe that the court’s order has served the cause of justice and are still wanting to meet with the employer in order to come to an agreement on wages and working conditions.
For more information, visit the Community to Community Facebook page or contact Rosalinda Guillen at 360-381-0293.
PREVIOUSLY at The Stand — Sakuma Brothers farmworkers strike again, claim retaliation (July 23, 2013)
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