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Driscoll’s Boycott Movement Continues and Grows

By anonymous contributor - It's Going Down, July 7, 2017

This is a friendly reminder from your comrades at the Good Earth Workers Union that the call to boycott the multi-national corporation known as Driscoll’s Berries is still ongoing.

You may recall that last year, about 400 farmworkers organized as FUJ in Washington state fought for a contract in their struggle for higher wages and better working conditions. Despite their successful and hard-won fight, berry pickers and other agricultural workers face severely worse working conditions in the Mexican state of Baja California.

At least 60,000 workers are represented by the National Independent Democratic Union of Agricultural Workers (SINDJA). Our brothers and sisters in Mexico have been facing fierce repression for their organizing efforts in the region over the last several years. Many of them work at farms in the San Quintin region that are contracted through Driscoll’s Berries.

Don’t be fooled by the “Fair Trade” sticker they slap on the clamshell packages: Driscoll’s is complicit with a corrupt state that uses violence to crush labor movements. The next time you need to visit a grocery store, don’t just boycott the berries; ask to talk to the produce department about the ongoing movement. Any store that sees value in selling organic or fair trade products should heed this call to action.

For more information and resources, especially if you live in Minnesota, visit our website NoBloodBerriesMN.wordpress.com

Berry Pickers’ Win Could Result in Better Conditions for Many Farmworkers

By Elizabeth Grossman - CivilEats, October 10, 2016

For over three years, the workers at Sakuma Brothers farms in Burlington, Washington have been calling for a boycott. The farm supplies strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and more to Driscoll’s, the largest berry distributor in the world, and over the years, the workers have complained of inconsistent, piecemeal wages (that dipped below minimum wage), poor housing conditions, and the absence of paid break time.

Now, the workers have reached an important milestone: In September, they voted to be represented by Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), the first farmworker union led by workers who are indigenous to Central America. And they’ve called off the boycott for now. “This win ushers in a new era for farmworker justice internationally,” said FUJ in a statement.

Washington is the number one state in red raspberry production, number two in blueberry production, and number five in strawberries in the nation. Skagit County, where Sakuma Brothers is located, is Washington’s top strawberry producer. That crop is worth about $20 million annually. What happens in those berry fields is big business; the U.S. ranks number one in world blueberry production and number three for raspberries. Undoubtedly, labor relations in this industry can have a worldwide impact.

As FUJ spokesperson Maru Mora Villalpando told Civil Eats, “What workers wanted from day one, was to establish a process where they can negotiate directly with the management.” Now that’s what they’ll have. She also believes the group can set an example for other farms throughout the state.

“For these indigenous farmworkers, many of whom don’t speak Spanish or English, fighting for four years for the right to have a union—and winning that right—is tremendous,” said Food First executive director Eric Holt-Giménez.

The Future of the Food Justice Movement

By Rory Smith - Truthout, May 7, 2016 ©Truthout; may not be reused without permission.

The food justice movement -- a loose but expansive conglomeration of organizations working to create a more just food system in the United States -- has accomplished a great deal over the last 30 years. But can it manage to converge in its diversity and create a countermovement potent enough to transform the current food regime? Or is it too shallow and too spread, destined to disappear in its disjointedness.

Things may seem a little out of sorts when one in six Americans -- residents of the most affluent country on the planet -- don't have enough to eat, and when the percentage of hungry people in the United States has gone up 57 percent since the late 1990s. Sprinkle in that little detail about how Black and Latino neighborhoods are often left practically devoid of fresh produce but flooded with fast food restaurants (something that contributes to high rates of obesity, diabetes and thyroid disease), and you might start to question one or two things.

Toss in the fact that many of the 2 million farm laborers who produce US consumers' fruits and vegetables are not only subjected to brutal labor conditions but also can't afford to consume the very same food they pick, and you might really start to wonder. And when you top off this gallimaufry with one more slight detail -- that there are 1 billion people around the world suffering from malnourishment, a number that hasn't changed significantly since the 1970s -- the inequity of the current food regime becomes pretty clear. It was the food justice movement that first recognized this reality, and it has spent the last 30 years challenging and redressing these inequalities.

The Black Panthers' Free Breakfast for School Children Program, Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, and the family farming caucuses that swept the United States during the 1980s were early proponents of food justice. And while these original players have been all but subsumed by the passage of time, they have been replaced by hundreds of thousands of farmworkers, urban and rural farmers, activists, consumers and academics who are all working to institute a fairer and more just food system. This effort is what Eric Holt-Giménez, the executive director of Food First, calls "converging in our diversity," and it is the linchpin of creating a just food system: a system that stresses the right of communities everywhere to produce, distribute and have equal access to healthy food, irrespective of class, gender or ethnicity.

Just when that Rust Cohle-like pessimism seems to have obtruded on our collective consciousness -- foregrounded by our failure to engineer any overhaul of the US financial system and scientists' incredulous predictions on global warming -- the food justice movement could be that slow-cooked countermovement that we have all been waiting for. Everyone has some kind of a relationship with food. It is the cornerstone of culture and life, as well as of the capitalist system. If any revolution is going to be successful, this seems like a good place for it to start.

Farmworkers Lead the Way To Climate Justice

By Edgar Franks - Front and Centered, April 21, 2016

We at Community to Community (C2C) have been in solidarity with the Boycott Driscoll’s campaign led by Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) since 2013. We believe that movements are most successful when led by the most affected. It’s not often, if at all, we see a union that is led by indigenous people, FUJ union members are Mixteco and Triqui people and they are dramatically shifting the ways in which we think about farm worker organizing. We have learned from Cesar Chavez and the California farm workers’ strategies on winning contracts using the boycott and in WA State we are continuing that legacy.

FUJ is making history not only in taking on a corporate giant but in the ways they have been able to educate people on the complexities of the food system. Through the boycott of Driscoll’s we are now able to see the dramatic shift that agriculture has been going through. Driscoll’s is an example of why we need a new food system. Apart from the tremendous amount of labor exploitation the fight against Driscoll’s is also about climate and environmental justice.

We can’t call corporate businesses farms or say that they are practicing agriculture. Our campesino way of food production and feeding our people is at odds with the profit/commodity market. Through the industrial agriculture model we see an intensifying use of pesticides and fertilizers, most of which are petroleum based and contribute to ozone depletion. The water that is extracted is drying up our rivers and reservoirs. For example, California is currently going through a historic water shortage mostly due to the amount of water that is used in industrial agriculture.

So when farm workers are calling for a boycott of Driscoll’s berries, it is a much deeper call to action. It is a challenge to all of us to fight for a better way of living and build the food system and economy that we need to thrive in harmony with Mother Earth. We at C2C are working to create a local solidarity economy where profit is not the motive, but living well is the driving factor of our labor. We want food sovereignty for all communities, where communities can decide how to feed their people in an equitable, participatory manner. We want agroecology as the way to build the new food system and to end the corporate industrial model of food production. By doing this we can raise the political consciousness of our people and build solidarity across movements.

UFW Tries to Silence Boycott Driscoll’s Activists at Cesar Chavez March

By Bradley Allen - Indybay, April 5, 2016

On Sunday, April 3, Michael Garcia and fellow Watsonville Brown Berets traveled a short distance to Salinas, California to attend the annual Cesar Chavez March and Rally presented by United Farm Workers (UFW). The Watsonville Brown Berets were joined by members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), an independent farmworker union in Burlington, Washington fighting for a union contract, and initiators of the boycott against Driscoll's.

The Watsonville Brown Berets (WBB) and FUJ activists spoke with people assembled at Cesar Chavez Community Park and handed out flyers about the growing movement to boycott Driscoll's, the world's largest berry distributor. FUJ, along with tens of thousands of farmworkers in San Quintín, México, are fighting to end wage theft and poverty wages, inhumane production standards, and retaliation from protected union activity.

Although advocating for farmworkers' rights seems like it would be warmly welcomed by UFW, that was unfortunately not the experience for WBB and FUJ members. Garcia, born and raised in Watsonville, noticed that his friend was working the stage and asked if his group could have some time later to speak about the Driscoll's boycott. Garcia's friend, who was both the owner of the stage and a mariachi musician performing at the event, agreed to provide Garcia time. The stage owner, however, was then reportedly approached by UFW representatives and specifically told that UFW does not want WBB or FUJ speaking from the stage.

Prior to parading through the streets of Salinas, Garcia enthusiastically approached UFW Regional Director Lauro Barajas and asked if it was OK if they carried their “Boycott Driscoll’s” banner towards the front of the march. Garcia was denied and then told that UFW did not want him to carry the banner at all during the march.