Target: Danny Weeden, President and CEO of Sakuma Brothers Farm
Goal: Tell berry supplier accused of stealing wages to allow workers a clean, fair process in upcoming election of union representatives.
Driscoll’s boasts the title of being the largest berry supplier in the world, but in recent years the company’s name has been tainted by controversy. Approximately three years ago, Driscoll’s workers began to protest allegedly unfair wages and labor abuses, which have led to walk outs, strikes, and an ongoing international boycott led by said workers.
Tensions have been particularly high at Sakuma Brothers Farm, one of Driscoll’s suppliers in Burlington, Washington. Workers at this location have made accusations of stolen wages, claiming that they were not paid for extra pounds of berries that they’d picked. There have also been concerns about child labor abuses, with some workers claiming that their children started working at Sakuma as young as 10 years old.
After years of pressure from workers and an $850,000 lawsuit, Sakuma is making some strides towards improving workers’ conditions, starting with paid rest breaks and enforcing a minimum working age of 15. However, one of the most important breakthroughs has yet to happen. This summer, Sakuma representatives will meet with Familias Unidas para Justicia, the labor group that has been demanding union representation and benefits, to negotiate a union contract.
It is highly important that this meeting be handled openly, fairly, and without any intimidation or interference on Sakuma or Driscoll’s behalf. Urge the President of Sakuma Brothers Farm to ensure that the union contract is fair and that his company will not seek out legal loopholes to cheat their workers of fair representation and compensation.
Dear Mr. Weeden,
As a supporter of workers’ rights, I was alarmed to hear of the allegations made against your company by your harvest workers. As you are probably aware, labor abuses are rampant among immigrant populations in this country, so their allegations came as no surprise.
In your short time as CEO of Sakuma Brothers Farm, you have taken steps toward reconciliation between your company and its harvest workers. These efforts support your claim that you wish to create a “family environment” for all of your workers. Perhaps the most important of these efforts so far is your agreeing to negotiate a union contract with your workers in the hopes of finding a compromise that works for everyone.
Allowing your workers to elect their own union representatives is admirable; however, I must strongly urge that you and your company’s representatives ensure that the election process is completely fair and free from coercion or manipulation. Furthermore, I ask that your company strive to support your workers fully by protecting them from any shortcomings in their union representation. Due to farm workers’ exclusion from certain union protections under the National Labor Relations Act, your workers are vulnerable. Do not allow them to be cheated any further by unfair labor laws or working conditions.
Farm workers are some of the hardest working and most underappreciated laborers in this country, but they deserve respect, livable wages, and fair working conditions. Please do what is right for your workers and your company’s reputation by ensuring a clean election process and your support of their reasonable demands.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Davis Pigeon