文：David Bacon／the Progressive；Liz Jones/KUOW
Immigrant farmworkers in Washington state and California are organizing against Driscoll for unfair labor issues. They had been on several strikes.
No matter whether they work in Washington State, California, or Mexico, blueberry pickers perform exhausting work. At Sakuma Farms in Washington State, indigenous farmworkers from Oaxaca must pick forty pounds of blueberries to earn $10 per hour. The company website says workers can make up to $40 a day, but that’s only if they pick 100 pounds.
But the farm in Summer 2015 has faced lawsuits, worker strikes and consumer boycotts, which have largely yielded victories for its workers. The disputes have caught the attention of farm owners and labor groups across the county. And a pending Washington State Supreme Court ruling on how Sakuma handles rest breaks could prompt farm workers to bring similar lawsuits against their employers elsewhere.
Some workers at Sakuma Brothers say that what’s needed is a union contract. They’re asking for a legally binding agreement on wages, and for a flat rate of $15 per hour for all harvesters, instead of the current system that pays workers by the pound for how much they pick — what’s called a piece rate. They also want the contract to define a grievance system, medical coverage and payment of transportation costs for seasonal workers who migrate every year from California.
Felimon Piñeda and his family lived in a Sakuma camp for laborers. One worker said, “We were upset about the conditions in the camp. The mattress they gave us was torn and dirty, and the wire was coming out. There were cockroaches and rats. The roof leaked when it rained. They just put bags in the holes and it still leaked. All my children’s clothes were wet.”
In the summer of 2013, Sakuma workers went on strike and organized an independent union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia. During the strike, union president Ramón Torres met every night with the workers to report on negotiations and plan strategy. Sakuma tried to bring in hundreds of guest workers under the H2-A visa program to replace the strikers. Striker Jose Galicia delivered petitions to the Department of Labor office in San Francisco to save Sakuma workers’ jobs.
Sakuma Farms sells its berries through Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry distributor. Joined by supporters along the Pacific Coast, workers are marching and have called for a “border to border” boycott until their union is recognized. In the spring of 2015, berry pickers in northern Mexico went on strike to demand higher wages.