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Sakuma farm workers win record wage settlement

The following is from Columbia Legal Services:

sakuma-fw-dignitySEATTLE (June 12, 2014) — Under a settlement agreement submitted to federal court for approval, Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. in Burlington, Wash., has agreed to pay a total of $850,000 and to change certain employment practices the workers alleged were unlawful. This is the largest farm worker wage and hour settlement on record in Washington State. Farm workers charged that for years, Sakuma Brothers Farms failed to pay them for all hours worked, did not provide required rest breaks, and failed to accurately disclose their hours worked, making it impossible for workers to determine whether they were being paid minimum wage.

The agreement entitles migrant and seasonal workers to share in the settlement funds if they worked piece rate harvesting strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries at Sakuma Brothers between October 23, 2010 and December 31, 2013. The parties estimate that there are about 1,200 farm workers in this settlement class. If the settlement is approved, $500,000 will be divided proportionally between all workers submitting valid claims, based on the number of days each person worked.

The settlement also provides for changes in Sakuma Brothers’ employment practices and improvements in working conditions, including elimination of unpaid work, provision of rest breaks, and provision of accurate information to workers on wages and hours. Payments for attorneys’ fees, costs of litigation, and awards to the class representatives are included in the settlement.

The case was filed in Federal Court District Court in the Western District of Washington on October 24, 2013. Ana Lopez Demetrio and Francisco Eugenio Paz are the proposed plaintiff class representatives. “This agreement provides fair compensation and improved working conditions. It makes up for their practice of underpaying us and not giving us breaks,” said Francisco Eugenio Paz.

Seasonal and migrant farm workers who harvested fruit for piece-rate wages at Sakuma between October 23, 2010 and December 31, 2013 are encouraged to contact the workers’ attorneys at (855) 713-3147. If the class action settlement is approved by Federal District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman after a settlement fairness hearing, workers who submit valid claim forms will receive payments for their portion of the settlement funds.

The workers are represented by Terrell Marshall Daudt & Willie PLLC and Columbia Legal Services.

ALSO at The Stand — Judge to Sakuma Brothers: Stop retaliation (May 29, 2014)

Sakuma Bros. aim to replace farm workers who struck (May 6, 2014)

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