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Berry Pickers Form Union, Taste Victory

Berry pickers in Washington state have formed one of the first farmworker unions to come along in many years.

Sakuma Brothers in Washington is a major contributor to Driscoll's, the largest berry distributor in the world.

After a three-year struggle for better wages and conditions, berry pickers in Washington state have formed one of the first farmworker unions to come along in many years.

In September, a group of about 500 workers from Sakuma Brothers in Burlington voted to join Familias Unidas por la Justicia.

The workers had been calling for a boycott of Driscoll’s berries for the last three years, and staged strikes and walkouts.

Sakuma Brothers is a major supplier of strawberries and blueberries for Driscoll’s, the largest berry supplier in the world.

The union is led by migrants from the southern Mexico states of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chiapas.

A court ruled in 2014 that the company had intimidated workers by hiring security guards to patrol the farm’s labor camps.

The company maintains that the workers are among highest paid in the industry, at an estimated average of $17 per hour. That rate depends on the workers’ picking speed.

Negotiations with the company include a guaranteed minimum rate.

Farmworkers are excluded from U.S. labor laws that guarantee the right to organize.

Read More:

  • Berry Pickers’ Win Could Result In Better Conditions For Many Farmworkers (Civil Eats)
  • Why These Farm Workers Went On Strike – And Why It Matters (The Nation)
Chad Bouchard

Chad Bouchard is a veteran reporter and WFIU alum who has covered wild and wooly beats from Indonesia to Capitol Hill. His radio work has aired on NPR, PRI and Voice of America, and his writing has appeared in The Sunday Telegraph and Scientific American’s health magazine, Lives. He has also spent a lifetime gardening, foraging and eating weird stuff.

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