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Familias Unidas berry pickers ratify historic Sakuma contract

The following statement is from Familias Unidas por la Justicia:

BURLINGTON (June 16, 2017) — Members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), an independent and indigenous farm worker union with more than 500 members based in Burlington, Wash., turned out Thursday night to overwhelmingly ratify the collective bargaining agreement with Sakuma Brothers Berry Farm presented by the FUJ negotiations committee.

After an overview of the contract the Mixteco and Triqui hand harvesters, men and women, lined up to cast their ballots. Official vote counters Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, and Steve Garey, former President of the Steelworkers Local 12-591, tallied the vote and announced it was more than 85% in favor of ratifying the tentative agreement.

Sakuma Brothers and FUJ representatives were set to sign the collective bargaining agreement on this afternoon, making it official.

“I’m proud to be a union member and to have participated in the negotiation of a contract,” said Celestino Santos, a member of FUJ’s Negotiations Committee who will sign the union contract this afternoon. “I learned that its possible to ensure both good wages and protections from retaliation.”

The harvesting season will begin soon with contractual benefits for members of FUJ hand-harvesting the berries. Among the benefits union members will receive is an average $15 an hour wage.

FUJ President Ramon Torres said, “This is a historic victory for all our members that harvest berries, they are happy to be working at Sakuma Farms with a union contract, everybody is ready to get to work, there will soon be union berries in the marketplace!”

A summary of the contract follows:

Union Recognition – FUJ will represent all berry pickers at Sakuma Brothers Farm.

Wages – The test pick process that the union developed in 2013 will be used with a mathematical formula that ensures that the average wage for all workers in each field will be at least $15 per hour for work in all crops and the Union will have control of the process.  There will be no limit on how much workers can earn.  For all crops, there will be a minimum wage of $12 per hour.  The per tray price paid for blackberries will be $4.25.  The price for blackberries for juice will be $.50 per pound.  Clean up picks for blackberries will be paid at $15 per hour.  

Grievance Procedure – There will be a fair process for resolving disputes under the contract.  The final step of the grievance process is binding arbitration, which means that disputes that go to arbitration will be decided by a neutral third-party, not the company.

Just Cause – The contract will ensure that workers facing discipline will be treated fairly.  The company will be required to complete fair and objective investigations before issuing discipline and the rules will be applied to workers equally.

Union Representatives – There will be up to 8 union representatives in the fields that are available to assist members with their issues and to represent members in disciplinary meetings.

Labor Management Communications Committee – The company will meet regularly with the union to informally resolve issues as they come up.  The Union will use these meetings to work with the company to develop a retirement plan for members, with a goal of developing a plan by the end of the contract in 2019.

Non-Discrimination – The contract states that there shall be no discrimination by company.  If any discrimination occurs, the union can use the grievance procedure to resolve the issue.

No Strikes/Lock Outs – There will be no strikes and the company will not lock out employees during the term of the contract.

Seniority – When decisions are made regarding hiring, layoffs, or bringing employees back to work, seniority will be followed.

Duration – The contract will be in effect for two years, from June 16, 2017 – June 15, 2019.

For more information about FUJ, visit its website or Facebook page.

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