200 Berry Pickers Resume Strike In Skagit Valley

Jul 22, 2013

For the second time in 10 days, workers at Sakuma Brothers Farms have gone on strike. More than 200 berry pickers have walked off the job at the farm near Burlington, saying they want the farm to pay more for each box of blueberries and strawberries they harvest.

Rosalinda Guillen is a farmworker advocate with the Bellingham-based group Community to Community. She said this morning the workers were offered a rate that was $5.00 less than the amount offered to another crew. The striking workers said they will not return to work unless they are given the same amount as the other field — $8.50 a box, according to Guillen.

The workers claim that the farm supervisor singled them out for lower wages in retaliation for a work stoppage about a week ago. On July 11, these same workers went on strike to demand better wages and work conditions. That strike lasted six days.

Most of the striking workers are indigenous Mexicans who travel here from California for the berry season. Some have worked at Sakuma Brothers Farms for a decade. This summer, tensions have risen because the farm is set to bring in 160 foreign guest workers next month. Guillen said the striking workers fear they’ll be displaced.

John Segale, spokesman for Sakuma Farms, said that’s not the plan. Segale said the current workers are offered the same job and wages as the foreign workers. He also said Sakuma turned to foreign labor because the farm is already short-staffed this season, and 150 tons of fruit have gone unpicked.