BURLINGTON, Wash. (July 1, 2014) — Farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers berry farm won another round in court last week after a judge ordered the farm’s owners to end their discriminatory denial of housing to farmworkers who participated in last year’s work stoppages. Later that same day, Sakuma Brothers opened a 30-acre field for a free strawberry pick because they claim that they do not have the required labor force to harvest the berries.
A recent series of victories in court by Familias Unidas por la Justicia show that there is no shortage of workers who are able to pick the berries, and that have done so for years — but Sakuma Brothers management has prevented a significant portion of their workforce from being able to return to work so far this season.
“In April, Familias Unidas provided Sakuma Brothers with signed statements from over 460 farmworkers who were willing and able to return to work,” Familias Unitas said in a statement. “If Sakuma had not attempted to illegally change their housing policies, in addition to their earlier attempt to illegally disqualify 379 Familias Unidas members from employment, this available labor force would be harvesting this field.”
A Skagit County Superior Court judge ruled last week that Sakuma had acted illegally in discontinuing its long-standing practice of providing family housing at the labor camps. The vast majority of Familias Unidas members have spouses and children and Sakuma’s refusal to begin to provide family housing as ordered by the court has effectively prevented a significant portion of the available workforce from being able to return to work. However, despite the ruling and court order, Familias Unidas reports that Sakuma Brothers has yet to agree to provide family housing to any worker with a family who has applied for it.
TAKE A STAND! Familias Unitas is calling on labor and community supporters to honor its Sakuma berry boycott and not pick the berries that could have, and should have, been harvested by Familias Unidas por la Justicia members. Instead, call Sakuma Berry Farms Management and ask them to recognize the union, and to begin hiring and housing farmworker families immediately. Call Steve or Ryan Sakuma at 360-757-6611 and 360-770-4162.
Here is KING TV coverage of Sakuma’s claims of a labor shortage and its decision to give away free strawberries:
Two weeks ago, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant joined Familias Unidas at a press conference outside of the Roosevelt Square Whole Foods in Seattle to announce her support of the Sakuma berry boycott.
“Workers at Sakuma Brothers Farms have led the way for migrant farmworkers by winning an important victory against wage theft,” she said. “But now they are facing retaliation as Sakuma Brothers attempts to prevent further labor organizing. It is the duty of all workers to unite in solidarity to stop this intimidation and lay the groundwork for bigger victories.”