By David Bacon, AlJazeera America
August 19, 2013
In July, Washington berry pickers went on strike. A week after their return, farm owners brought in H2A guest workers
BURLINGTON, Wash. — Over a tense two-week period in July, at the peak of the summer harvest season, almost 250 workers at the $6.1 million Sakuma Brothers strawberry and blueberry farm — one of the largest in Washington state — went on strike twice. Workers fought with the farm’s owners over wages, overtime pay, alleged racist treatment and conditions in their housing camp. They won concessions but lost on most of their monetary demands. With few resources left, they returned to the fields.
Sakuma Brothers Farms could afford to play hardball because it had an ace in the hole: It had been certified to bring 160 new workers from Mexico under the restrictive H2A guest-worker program. And the lower wages mandated for guest workers under U.S. immigration law proved to be the limit not just for the H2A workers but also for all the other pickers at the company. [...]
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