BURLINGTON — Against a backdrop of blackberries ripening in the afternoon sun, about 100 striking migrant farmworkers at Sakuma Bros. Farms chanted and protested here Wednesday after wage negotiations with the company broke down and the latest work stoppage entered a third day.
The workers say Sakuma has threatened to evict them from company-owned housing if they don’t return to work.
Steve Sakuma, one of the owners, said he couldn’t confirm that the workers had been threatened with eviction. But, he said, “I think it is a reasonable request that if someone is not working that they be asked to leave.”
By Wednesday afternoon no one had moved out of the rows of small houses and the workers said they were staying put. Workers held signs and passed around a mic for speeches and a bilingual rap about migrant farm work.
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This is the second time in as many weeks that the workers have walked off the job.
The current issue on the table relates to the piece-rate they receive, which they say does not equal minimum wage. Workers are asking for $4.75 per box of berries picked, while the company has agreed to pay $4, up from the previous price of $3.50.
Previous negotiations have addressed the firing of another worker and Sakuma’s application to recruit 160 guestworkers from Mexico.
On the sidelines of the rally were supporters from the surrounding community and farther afield.
Anna Boiko-Weyrauch: 206-464-2420