We continue to follow reports of a labor dispute happening in Washington State, between Sakuma Brothers Farms Inc. (one of Driscoll’s many berry suppliers), and farm workers.
Willy Street Co-op is a community-owned cooperative dedicated to fulfilling the needs of our Owners. Driscoll’s organic berries are a huge favorite amongst many Owners, and many Owners choose to buy them. However, because of our commitment to a sustainable, fair food chain, we take the calls for a boycott very seriously. There are no easy answers to this issue for us.
To date, we have received 16 comments from 15 Owners regarding this boycott within the last year (05/18/2015-05/17/2016). This represents 0.047% of our total fiscal year 2015 Ownership of 31,856 active Owners. Per our boycott policy, if we receive comments from 1% of our Ownership within 365 days, we will open a comment period in which Owners will be actively informed of the issue and invited to comment. Based on the results of the comment period, a decision will be made regarding an official boycott.
In the meantime, we are committed to not carrying any berries from Sakuma Brothers Farms until the labor dispute has been resolved to the worker’s satisfaction. We will also continue to pressure both our distribution chain and Driscoll’s directly.
As the largest supplier of fresh organic berries in the world, Driscoll’s is often the only label of organic berries we have access to that satisfies our Owner’s quality standards and pricing needs. Because our Ownership has expressed a desire for us to carry these berries through their purchases, we have and will continue to source Driscoll’s brand organic berries (that do not come from Sakuma Brothers) when we are unable to find a viable alternative, or until an Owner initiated boycott is begun per our boycott policy.
What are the details of the current disputes?
As a packer and distributor or fresh berries, Driscoll’s does not directly own farmland or employ farmworkers. They purchase berries from hundreds of independent farms from Chile to Canada, pack those berries, and market them under the Driscoll’s label. This system appeals to many small to mid-sized growers because it eliminates the need for them to self-market their product, and allows them to focus on farming.
The Driscoll’s system works well for many farms, and is responsible for supporting thousands of workers’ livelihoods. However, one of the farms that supplies Driscoll’s has been at the center of a boycott effort for the last three years. Sakuma Brothers Farms is located in Burlington, Washington and produces berries (mostly blueberries and blackberries), which are sold primarily to Driscoll’s. In the summer of 2013, workers from Sakuma went on strike in response to wage theft, harassment, and other labor malpractices. Since then, Sakuma has agreed to an $850K settlement in a class action lawsuit over stolen wages, and several discriminatory supervisors have been let go. Despite this, workers continue to struggle for increased wages and better working conditions and have called a boycott of Sakuma Brother’s largest customers: Driscoll’s.
For more information, visit the following links:
What does Driscoll’s say about this matter?
Below is a statement we received from Driscoll’s:
Sakuma Brothers is an independent grower for Driscoll’s in Washington who is in compliance with the standards set forth in Driscoll’s Global Worker Welfare Standards, our legal contracts and the state of Washington. Sakuma’s compliance with our Global Worker Welfare Standards has been certified through three separate audits over several growing seasons.
A group of protesters, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), is currently conducting a secondary boycott against Driscoll’s, trying to pressure our company to play a role in labor negotiations between themselves and Sakuma Brothers. While we acknowledge FUJ’s desire to become a legally recognized union, current Washington State law does not yet include a provision for farmworker unions. Driscoll’s cannot legally mandate our independent growers to recognize FUJ or other similar organizations as formal unions In addition, we’ve have repeatedly invited Familias Unidas to meet with us. They have declined. We continue to be transparent, open and willing to listen to any concerns on how our independent growers treat their farmworkers. The first step to any continued unresolved issues is to sit down for productive dialogue.
Our vision is a world in which all agriculture workers are treated with dignity, fairness and respect, and that employment within the Driscoll's business enterprise provides income opportunities that meet or exceed local standards. We must learn to work together with open dialogue if we hope to improve anything.
We invite you to read more on our efforts: www.driscolls.com/workerwelfareupdate
How can I tell if a specific package of Driscoll’s berries came from Sakuma Brothers?
Every package of Driscoll’s berries has a 16 digit number displayed on the bottom (next to the UPC code). By entering the number at www.mydriscolls.com, you are able to track that package of berries back to the farm it was grown on.
Until the labor dispute has been resolved to the workers’ satisfaction, Willy Street Co-op is committed to not carrying Driscoll’s berries from Sakuma Brothers Farms. The vast majority of the Driscolls berries we sell are from California farms, and none of these farms have been subject to the same labor disputes happening at Sakuma Brothers. The Washington berry season typically starts in July, and we primarily sell Washington blueberries under the Rainier label.
What is Willy Street Co-op’s sourcing policy?
- Preferring to source local, organic, natural, sustainable, humane, and fairly traded products which represent our Owners’ diverse values and contribute to healthy, just, tolerant and viable communities.
- Providing fairly priced products to support accessibility for all in our community.
- Fostering supportive and transparent relationships with small, local, or cooperatively-operated farms and businesses that share our commitment to operate in ethical and environmentally sustainable ways.
- Helping Owners make informed choices about products whenever possible.
To read the full text of our Food and Product Selection Philosophy, please follow this link.