Inhumane working and living conditions
I visited Sakuma Brothers Farms’ Labor Camp Number Two twice this week, and I personally witnessed the sordid housing conditions and privations enforced on farmworkers by low wages and constant threats of eviction and other intimidations. [“Striking farmworkers say Sakuma threatened eviction from housing,” Northwest Thursday, July 25.]
Farmworkers need at least $4.75 per box of berries to reach the state’s minimum wage of $9.19 in eight hours, but Sakuma refuses to negotiate. There is no overtime pay.
Working under the hot sun, farmworkers absorb deadly pesticides through their skin, but are denied sick leave by supervisors who bang on workers’ doors demanding a return to the fields unless shown medical proof of illness.
“Housing” at the labor camp consists of small shacks with filthy mattresses on bunk beds, tiny sinks, and barely enough room to stand. I saw children covered with festering bites from bedbugs. Toilets and showers, as such, are in two separate buildings.
Sakuma supplies companies such as Haagen Dazs, using labor practices common during the 1930s. Currently, Sakuma is trying to import guestworkers, rather than pay fair wages to current farmworkers and clean up the deplorable living conditions.
Anyone interested in helping these farmworkers can visit the Community to Community Development site.
Tamara Turner, Seattle