Posted March 5, 2015 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion
 
 

Farmworkers and Students Picket at Olympia Grocery Store, Demand Boycott



By MEXA de Evergreen and the Evergreen Farmworker Solidarity Collective

As students, members of the Olympia community, and consumers of food, we picketed in front of Safeway, on Saturday February 28th, 2015, to demand that the store respect the boycott of Driscoll Berries, Haagen Daazs and Yoplait. This boycott was called for by the farmworkers of Familias Unidas, who are asking for the public to observe the boycott until they have secured a union contract with their employer, Sakuma Brothers Farm Inc.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia is an AFL-CIO-recognized farmworker’s union in the Skagit Valley made up of over 300 indigenous migrant farmworker families, some families contributing three generations of labor to Sakuma Brothers farm. Almost every year, there has been a labor dispute – they held six strikes in  2013. Some disputes end in firing and evictions, while others have been full on work stoppages with only one in 2014, resulting in minor temporary concessions. Farmworkers have not yet been able to secure a contract that guarantees fair wages nor better treatment from their employer. Farmworker’s say that they are struggling for the future of their families and for justice.

Along with the Farmworker’s Justice Committee, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Movimiento Estudiantil de Aztlan (MEXA), students, educators, and community members rallied alongside Familias Unidas.

More than $15.1 billion in food and agricultural products were exported through Washington ports in 2013, the third largest total in the U.S. What we don’t see is the exploitative conditions that the farmworkers that make these exports and the food on our plates possible may suffer on a daily basis. Celestino, a farmworker at Sakuma, testified at the first ever Farmworker Tribunal held in the Senate Rules room at The Washington State Capitol.

Celestino testified, “I came here to give information about my work, where I work there is no bathrooms, no breaks, wages are low, I earn $20-$30 for 8 hours of work, [I work] 2-3 hours a day that I am not getting paid for.”

Another farmworker, Felimon testified at the same event, “The growers don’t think about our well-being, they control because they are about making more money to get bigger, and we are just tools to them, as if we were tractors, but even worse, because tractors are only used certain times and even they get gasoline, but what about us human beings that need to take a rest, drink water.”

It is unacceptable for Safeway and other grocers to continue to support Sakuma Brothers as long as their workers have to endure these types of conditions. Familias Unidas have made the following demands.

1. The farmworkers demand recognition.

2. The farmworkers want a contract, they feel that it is the only way Sakuma executives will honor their agreements, they have otherwise broken their word, and have failed to adhere to their own written agreements.

3. The farmworkers want their grievances to be met in good faith.

4. The farmworkers ask that the solidarity community continue to support them in these difficult times.

At the picket, we asked that Safeway respect these demands; farmworkers are key to the agriculture industry. Without farmworkers grocers have no food, and therefore, no business. Without farmworkers, we, consumers, would not have produce. We are asking that Safeway acknowledge the rights of farmworkers and observe the farmworker-led boycott of SakumaBrothers Berry Farm’s Driscoll Berries.

Safeway’s compliance with the boycott would entail removing Driscoll Berries from supermarket shelves. This act would pressure Sakuma Farms to fulfill the demands of the farmworkers who comprise Familias Unidas. Students at Evergreen will continue to pressure Safeway to respect the boycott until they support the workers that make their business possible.