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March celebrates historic progress at Sakuma

Although treatment of Familias Unidas supporters raises concerns


The following is from Familias Unidas por la Justicia:

BELLINGHAM (July 14, 2016) — Farmworker union members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) marched to the Sakuma Berry Processing plant Monday in what has now become an annual tradition. This year there was a celebratory spirit with the news that the CEO of Sakuma Farms has finally relented and has requested to meet and jointly develop an Memorandum of Understanding with a process for a secret ballot union election that will lead to a collective bargaining agreement.

Familias-march-July2016Hundreds of supporters marched on Cook Road alongside FUJ members and leadership celebrating this historic step for Familias Unidas por la Justicia. After four years of forming the union and three years of boycotting the Driscoll’s label, one of the biggest buyers of Sakuma berries, the end is in sight for this labor conflict that has impacted the local farming community in Skagit and Whatcom Counties.

When the marchers arrived at the processing plant, a delegation formed by labor and faith representatives including Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson, Debi Covert-Bolts from National Farmworker Ministries NW and Sanchez from Brown Berets Portland, went into the Sakuma administrative offices after having to wait 20 minutes to be allowed in by security.

Familias-march-July2016-JJ“It’s hard to believe that Sakuma publicizes that they are willing to negotiate and then allow this kind of hostile behavior by their security personnel; they pushed a farmworker in a wheelchair that was part of our delegation,” Johnson said.

Once the delegation was able to go in, two Sakuma administration employees, one of them a manager who would not identify himself, refused to receive the delegation. The group then decided to write a letter and read it out loud to the two employees and delivered it.

Johnson then led the delegation back to the marchers and gave a report to the crowd that was waiting for them. Supporters that made up the march then began making calls to Driscoll’s, Haagen Dazs and Sakuma corporate offices asking for a fair and transparent negotiation process without intimidation such as what was exhibited on Monday.

Familias-march-July2016-banner“We ask that consumers and supporters from around the nation and beyond to continue the boycott of Driscoll’s berries until we ask you to stop,” said Ramon Torres, President of FUJ to the crowd after the delegation gave their report. “Even in spite of this rudeness, we are still willing to meet with the Sakuma CEO on July 14th and begin a fair and transparent negotiation process without intimidation.”

The march ended peacefully and organizers made sure everyone was able to return to the start point of the march at a parking lot by the I-5 232 exit.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia, an affiliate of the Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO, is an independent farmworker union in Burlington, Wash., with 500 members fighting for a union contract with Sakuma Farms to ensure living wage salaries, fair treatment, respect and dignity of farmworkers. Learn more.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!