by Kerstin Lindgren
You may have followed the story of Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ)over the last few years. This is the independent union at Sakuma Brothers Farm in Washington who have been locked in a labor dispute with owners and managers for years. (If you have not followed, you can read some of the background here.)
Farmworkers have won some concessions, some through lawsuits. For example, most farmworkers are paid by piece rate, that is, they are paid for the amount they harvest, which means they do not get paid while taking a break. A court ruled last year, in a case brought by FUJ, that farmworkers must be paid for their breaks at their average rate of production. This set a new precedent for all farms across the state of Washington, ensuring paid breaks for farmworkers not just a Sakuma but across the state.
Yet Sakuma has continued to refuse to sit down and negotiate a fair contract with representatives of Familias Unidas por la Justicia.
A representative of the National Farmworker Ministry, Gabriela Raquel Rios, sat down with CEO of Sakuma Danny Weeden at the end of last year. Fair World Project, along with other members and allies of the Domestic Fair Trade Association were there in support. Danny Weeden talked to Gabriela about how much he cared about the farmworkers, but would not agree to sit down with them. All the farmworkers want, Gabriela assured him, was for the fair treatment he was promising her to be documented for them. Most outrageous of all, Weeden refused to accept 750 postcards in support of farmworkers Gabriela had brought with her from National Farmworker Ministry’ network of supporters. You can read the NFM’ postcards and send one of your own.
This dismissive and disrespectful attitude toward Familias Unidas por la Justicia needs to end. For farmworkers’ voices to be heard, they need a say in their pay and working conditions that is outlined in a fairly negotiated contract.
Such a contract can be mutually beneficial. Workers have walked off the fields multiple time over the last few years when low pay or injustices made work intolerable, costing Sakuma far more than it would cost to offer stable and fair pay to begin with.
The berry season begins in late May in Washington. Workers have waited too long to have their voices heard and must have a contract this season.
Please join us in letting Danny Weeden, CEO of Sakuma Brothers, that the only way to truly respect farmworkers is to sit down and negotiate a fair contract with them.
Posted on February 19th 2016