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Skagit-Whatcom IWW

Boycott Sakuma Berries!

By A Abraham Chakur - Bellingham IWW, January 30, 2016

Farmworkers, often forgotten, have been routinely abused by employers for decades on both sides of the border of the U.S. and Mexico. Recently workers, mostly Indigenous Mexicans from Guerrero and Oaxaca have begun to rise up against the exploitation of the bosses. Entire families can be seen working in the fields, travelling thousands of kilometers with their families to Baja California and thousands more to work the fields of Washington state.

This spring working families San Quintin, Baja California rose up against poverty wages, poor standards of living and unsanitary working conditions. Coincidentally or perhaps indicative of Driscoll's near monopoly on the strawberry market, Sakuma Brothers farms in WA that are also sold under the Driscoll label. Berry pickers in Washington state have been organizing their own Union for better wages and conditions for the past few years and also went on strike this past spring after organizing for the past 4 years. Child labor laws and minimum wage laws do not cover farm labor and it is common to see children working in the fields. After an unprecedented settlement of $850,000 was reached in order to save Sakuma bros from admitting guilt, the growers have continued to retaliate against organizing workers by threats of intimidation from security guards, separating families into segregated housing and threats of deportation.

A boycott was called to reinforce the organizational efforts of Farmworkers Unions - Alianza de Organizaciones por la Justicia Social  in Mexico  and Familias Unidas por la Justicia in WA state. Driscoll's , Berry-Mex, Ranchos los Pinos and Haagen-Daz and Yoplait that contain Strawberries, Black berries and Raspberries. This spring, after years of support by the Bellingham I.W.W. branch, information pickets were held at Cost-co, Walmarts, and Whole Foods.  Other cities held summer long informational pickets in Detroit, MI and Kansas City, MO demanding that vendors not carry the exploitative brand. Workers again staged walk-outs during the course of the summer and even managed to organize workers from other farms. The boycott continued to grow with demonstrations held in 10 major US cities this August and in October both workers' Unions and representatives met at the U.S.-Mexico border as a demonstration of International Solidarity.

After a proposal from Bellingham Wobblies was adopted at the I.W.W. general Convention, the One Big Union pledged its support to workers' at Familias Unidas and the Allianza. We urge you to support the People who bring food from the farm to market. Don't buy brands on the Boycott list, call Management at the vendors of their fruit and build local support. 

The Costco Connection: Farmworkers bring Driscoll’s Boycott to Respected Washington Grocery

By Káráni: Escribir o Volar - Káráni, June 30, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Bellingham, WA – Farmworker families in northwest Washington have brought their berry boycott to Costco Wholesale, a respected Washington grocer that purchases berries from Driscoll’s, global small-fruit supplier that sources berries from Sakuma Bros. Farms and from several farms in the San Quintin Valley in Baja California, Mexico where there are ongoing labor disputes over unfair wages and wage theft, mistreatment and sexual harassment in the workplace, and against the dependency upon child labor for production.

A small independent farmworker union called Familias Unidas por la Justicia began their boycott of Sakuma Bros. Farms berries in 2013, successfully forcing the firm to discontinue selling fresh market berries with under their own label. In 2014, after discovering that the firm had shifted production towards processed berries and began packing fresh market berries exclusively into Driscoll’s label cartons, the farmworker union began to focus their campaign on Driscoll’s because the wholesaler refused to meet the union’s demands, stating instead that they fully supported Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc. and had not found any wrongdoing via their corporate audits of their supplier. A finding that the Skagit Valley Superior Court’s legal register disproves when it comes to the firm interfering with the farmworker’s right to engage in concerted activity, reprisals, their tenant rights, and the firm’s failure to follow Washington state’s legislation regarding paid rest breaks. Meanwhile, the farmworker union’s boycott campaign convinced five US cooperative grocers and the University of Washington to discontinue sourcing berries from Driscoll’s by early 2015.

On March 17, 2015 over 50,000 Mexican farmworkers organized a general strike in Baja California’s San Quintin Valley in the berry fields of Driscoll’s subsidiaries, BerryMex and MoraMex, Reiter Affiliated Companies along with several other fruit and vegetable growers in the region. As a result, J. Miles Reiter, the owner of the subsidiaries, stepped down as CEO of Driscoll’s on March 31, 2015 and was replaced by Kevin Murphy. The powerful strike immediately impacted the supply chain for all fresh market commodities in California on the U.S. side of the border.

On April 8, 2015 the emerging independent farmworker union named La Alianza de Organizaciones Nacionales, Estatales, y Municipales por la Justicia Social joined forces with Familias Unidas por la Justicia by announcing their endorsement of the Driscoll’s boycott and calling for it’s expansion to an international scale. Familias Unidas por la Justicia leadership had reached out in solidarity to the emerging union shortly after the strike because their extended family members who lived in the San Quintin Valley had participated in the strike and were reporting incidents of reprisals.

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