Court Rules in Favor of Sakuma Berry Farmworkers
Today Familias Unidas por la Justicia and individual plaintiff Felimon Pineda won a significant court victory when Skagit County Superior Court Judge John M. Meyer ordered Sakuma Brothers Berry Farms to remove security guards from their housing.
After an emergency hearing yesterday, Judge Meyer issued a restraining order prohibiting Sakuma Brothers from engaging in further violations of Washington’s primary labor law, the Little Norris LaGuardia Act. RCW 49.32.020. The Act prohibits employers from interfering with workers who are organizing themselves in order to improve their wages and working conditions. The judge ordered Sakuma to immediately remove security personnel from areas where they could observe or eavesdrop on the workers. They may not follow workers or community supporters of the workers on public roads and highways. Familias Unidas and Pineda asserted in court that the Sakuma Brothers hired security personnel to surveil workers and their supporters not only inside the residential labor camps, but also on public highways.
“Security does not belong in a camp with families; our struggle is peaceful and for the future of our children,” said Felimon Pineda vice-president of Familias Unidas. The order issued today shows that employers who use scare tactics and intimidation are violating the law.
Furthermore, the Judge found that the workers have a right to choose their representatives for negotiations. He also stated that Familias Unidas has a legal right to give publicity to their labor dispute, such as the ongoing boycott and community outreach by Familias Unidas as their strike continues. However, he declined grant injunctive relief on those two issues at this time. Another hearing on this matter is set for October 8.
Familias Unidas believe that the court’s order has served the cause of justice and they are still committed to meeting with the Sakuma ownership to reach an agreement on fair wages and working conditions.
Rosalinda Guillén is Executive Director of Community to Community and a Food First board member