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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 29, 2013 at 6:57 AM

Striking farmworkers fear eviction

Inhumane working and living conditions

Raul Merino, 26, originally from the Oaxaca, Mexico, in red hat, blows into a conch shell when demonstrating with fellow migrant workers employed by Sakuma Brothers Farms CQ at worker housing in Skagit Valley, Wash. Tuesday, July 24, 2013. Three camps of Sakuma workers, who are striking, said management told them this morning to accept their current wage or face eviction. The workers then blocked the road from worker housing to the highway to make the statement they keep want to negotiating with management. Hundreds of workers are currently protesting in a field next to worker housing. [Erika Schultz, The Seattle Times.]

Raul Merino, 26, blows into a conch shell while demonstrating with fellow migrant workers employed by Sakuma Brothers Farms at worker housing in Skagit Valley on July 24. Three camps of workers, who are striking, said management told them to accept their current wage or face eviction. Hundreds of workers are currently protesting in a field next to worker housing. [Erika Schultz, The Seattle Times.]

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

0 Comments | More in Economy, Health care, Politics | Topics: eviction, farmworkers, living conditions

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