UPDATE (July 30, 2013) — Farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms have returned to work after meeting with management and making some progress on workers’ demands. Click here for the latest.
The following is from Community to Community Development:
BURLINGTON, Wash. (July 23, 2013) — More than 200 Triqui and Mixteco farmworkers authorized a second work stoppage at Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. in protest of low piece-rate wages and hostile working conditions. The farmworkers contend that Sakuma Brothers Farms are engaging in retaliatory actions over their six-day work stoppage last week.
The latest of these is the differential piece rate wages for blueberries that Sakuma Brothers Farms set for the crew of the field supervisor who was transferred last week. Farmworkers believe that at $8.50 per box, this supervisor’s crew is being favored over their crew which was offered a piece rate of $3.50 per flat. Today, the Farmworker Rights Committee, which has been negotiating on behalf of the workers, asked for a raise in piece rate to $6.00 per flat.
Carmen Juarez-Ventura, a seasoned picker at Sakuma Brothers Farm stated that the differential treatment was “unjust.” She maintained that, “we want to work, but instead of raising our wage to make it fair, they keep lowering it.”
Another seasoned picker, Aucencio Alvarez, said, “They shouldn’t do that, pay us so brutally low. I feel disillusioned; we come from so far, from California, only to be treated this way.”
Alvarez said he was so discouraged that his family was thinking of not returning next year after having worked for Sakuma Brothers Farm for seven years, he said he was tired of always having to fight for a fair wage, the last work stoppage he experienced occurred in 2011 and resulted in no gains. He is hopeful that this work stoppage will result in an agreement.
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 lb. then lowered to $3.50 a lb.
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 a supervisor 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 said 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. Workers should be made whole, by being paid overtime and restoration of any pay that is owed.
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.
Click here for more information, including how you can support these farmworkers.