Boycott Driscoll’s Tour Leads Direct Action at Driscoll’s HQ

| 04.04.2016

Farmworkers Demand Negotiations of Union Contracts

For Immediate Release: March 31st

Contacts: Chelsea Thaw, (541) 602-9314 (English)

Ramon Torres, (360) 920-7215 (Spanish)

Watsonville, CA — Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), an independent farmworker union based in Burlington, WA led a direct action at Driscoll’s Headquarters on Cesar Chavez day to promote the ongoing  international boycott of Driscoll’s berries. The workers were in Watsonville as part of a month long tour throughout Oregon and California to build a boycott on the scale of the Cesar Chavez grape boycott of the 1960s that can win union contracts for berry pickers in both Washington State and San Quintin Mexico.

Driscolls

Ramon Torres, President of FUJ speaks with Driscoll’s Executive

Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) President Ramon Torres, rank and file union member Lazaro Matamoros, and Gloria Gracida spokesperson for the independent farmworker union in San Quintin Mexico demanded that Driscoll’s get their suppliers to negotiate union contracts with the respective independent unions and informed them that they will continue to organize a consumer boycott of the Driscoll’s label until this demand is met. They were joined by a group of boycott supporters from all over California, many of whom committed to organizing to support the boycott at earlier stops in the tour including the Watsonville Brown Berets.

Torres and Gracida stood outside the headquarters with 60 supporters and decried the abuses farmworkers experience working for Driscoll’s suppliers from 12 year olds having to pick 45 pounds of strawberries an hour to earn 8.50 in WA, and sexual abuse of women in the fields in San Quintin.

Torres and Gracida stood outside the headquarters with 60 supporters and decried the abuses farmworkers experience working for Driscoll’s suppliers from 12 year olds having to pick 45 pounds of strawberries an hour to earn 8.50 in WA, and sexual abuse of women in the fields in San Quintin.

Driscoll’s representatives came out to the protest an hour in and offered the group a jug of water and paper cups. Outraged Gracida declared to everybody that this was incredibly disrespectful and asked them how they could offer the group water when farmworkers in Driscoll’s fields in San Quintin are working 12 hour days with no breaks and no water. The initial strikes in San Quintin in 2015 were largely led by La Alianza which formed to address the severe lack of clean water for farmworkers in the region. Ramon informed the Driscoll’s representatives that the only people they should meet with are the representatives of Familias Unidas and El Sindicato, and that they can meet when Driscoll’s is ready to get their growers to negotiate union contracts.

image-2

FUJ supporters gather and listen to Ramon Torres speak on injustices in the fields

Torres Declared: “As long as Driscoll continues the exploitation of workers in Mexico and the US we will fight for the well-being of our families with the boycott. Boycott Driscolls!”

Gracida Declared: “This is the beginning of an international movement of farmworkers rising up to reclaim their dignity and stop the exploitation! Driscoll’s has had us on our knees, but now we’re on our feet and we will build this boycott until Driscoll’s is on their knees begging to negotiate union contracts!”

FUJ formed out of a series of strikes during the summer of 2013 at Sakuma Bros Berry Farm in response to denial of lunch and rest breaks, inhumane housing conditions, wage theft, below minimum wage pay, and harassment from supervisors. FUJ first called for a boycott of Sakuma in 2013 after signed agreements made in mediated negotiation sessions between the company and an elected committee of 11 workers were all broken by the company. In 2014 FUJ called for a boycott of Driscoll’s when Sakuma stopped using their own label and had workers picking directly into Driscoll’s flats.

The west coast tour tour marks a turning point from a localized fight in Washington State with little national media attention to an international effort of two independent farmworker unions taking on the corporate food regime and putting farmworker justice and transformation of the food system back into the minds and actions of U.S consumers. In March of 2015, international grassroots interest in the boycott of Driscoll’s berries exploded when 80,000 farmworkers in San Quintin Mexico launched a general strike, formed an independent union, Sindicato Independiente Nacional Democrático de Jornaleros Agrícolas and endorsed the consumer boycott of Driscoll’s. Since then the two independent unions have announced that neither will sign union contracts with their respective Driscoll’s suppliers unless the other union is signing a contract as well.

In the United States the average lifespan of a farmworker is only 49 years. “Conditions for farmworkers in the United States are just as bad or worse than they were during Cesar’s time” Says Rosalinda Guillen a farmworker and organizer who grew up the Skagit Valley during the 1960s.

In the United States the average lifespan of a farmworker is only 49 years. “Conditions for farmworkers in the United States are just as bad or worse than they were during Cesar’s time” Says Rosalinda Guillen a farmworker and organizer who grew up the Skagit Valley during the 1960s.

For videos and pictures boycottsakumaberries.com

Farmworker leaders are available for interviews prior and post event.

###

FUJ is an independent farmworker union in Burlington WA with 489 members fighting for a union contract with Sakuma Bros Berry Farm to ensure living wages, fair treatment, respect and dignity of farmworkers. The union’s members are indigenous people who from southern Mexico whose first languages are Mixteco and Triqui.