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Farmworkers Continue To Fight For Job Stability & Fair Pay In Pacific Northwest

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Berry pickers for Sakuma Brothers farm, a main supplier for Driscoll’s, want the public to keep boycotting the giant berry brand in hopes of better labor standards.

It has been nearly six months since the farm labor dispute that is taking place in the Pacific Northwest was reported on. Unfortunately the battle continues to rage between Sakuma Brothers Farm, a large-scale berry producer for many supermarkets across North America including Whole Foods and Costco, and Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), a group of indigenous migrant farmworkers that formed a union in 2013 in order to fight for better working conditions, pay, and job stability.

“There have been several work stoppages throughout the summer, when FUJ members waited in the fields for Sakuma officials to come negotiate. The most recent stoppage brought a small victory for the union, which means that the nation-wide boycott of Driscoll’s berries (a main buyer of Sakuma berries) in which the FUJ has been encouraging people to participate is having the desired effect. Haagen-Dazs and Yoplait also buy Sakuma’s strawberries.” said treehugger.com

According to the FUJ website, “During the last work stoppage at Sakuma farms in August, people all over the country called Driscoll’s, and Sakuma actually moved and met the workers’ demand for a lower production standard. Clearly targeting Driscoll’s is having a major impact on Sakuma.”

FILE - In this Friday, July 27, 2012 file photo, workers harvest wild blueberries at the Ridgeberry Farm in Appleton, Maine. Maine's wild blueberry growers for the most part escaped widespread damage from a harmful new fruit fly during the 2013 summer harvest, resulting in what is expected to be an above-average crop. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

The latest agreement between the union and management settled the following items:

1. The quota of pounds per hour to earn $10/hour was lowered from 22 ½ pounds to 16 ½ lbs. We were asking for 15 lbs per hour and we still think that, based on the quantity and quality of the berries, that is the fair quota to earn $10 an hour.

2. The company agreed to fire an abusive supervisor named Mario who was harassing many workers into inhumane speed-ups to reach the 22 ½ lbs per hour quota.

The fight isn’t over yet. The farm workers continue to call on the public to assist in pressuring Sakuma to create a legally binding contract for the workers.

“Workers are tired of sacrificing their health to struggle to meet the minimum production standard required to meet the company’s $10 an hour minimum wage. While Sakuma’s PR firm tells the public that workers are earning $30 an hour, the majority of the workforce is actually struggling to make $10 an hour and have been fighting valiantly for change.”

“The $10/hour wage, it should be noted, is $2 less than Sakuma paid guest workers in 2013 through the U.S. Department of Labor’s H-2A program. Hiring guest workers, however, puts the long-term seasonal employees out of work, and many of them have worked for Sakuma for 10 or 11 years. “Season after season, the same families come back to work here,” says Ramon Torres of the FUJ. He says the families want to keep working here, but with a guarantee of fair conditions and wages – a reasonable request.” said treehugger.com

Driscoll's berries warning

Pressure is still needed to aid the fight. Find out how you can join by visiting the Boycott Sakuma Berries Take Action page. Tweet using the hashtag #boycottdriscolls

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“Farmworkers Continue To Fight For Job Stability & Fair Pay In Pacific Northwest”