Farmworkers negotiating with Sakuma Farms management
  • Tomas Madrigal
  • Farmworkers negotiating with Steve Sakuma last year during a walkout.

Fresh on the heels of a defeat in the courts last week, Sakuma Brothers Farms (an hour north of Seattle near Mount Vernon) has abruptly dropped its attempt to displace local migrant farmworkers with guest workers imported from Mexico. In a statement, the farm says it notified the federal government over the weekend that it is withdrawing from the H2-A guest worker program.

"It was sobering to witness the protests against our family-owned business and hear calls for a boycott against our berries,” said the co-owner Steve Sakuma, a reference to calls for a boycott by Familias Unidas por la Justicia, a newly formed union of berry pickers, many of whom participated in a series of wildcat strikes on the farm last year. "But, even though we have been in business for nearly 80 years, we listened to our critics and we recognized that we could do better."

"Familias is ready to go work tomorrow," Rosalinda Guillen, a Skagit Valley-based labor activist who's been supporting the union, tells me by phone, "if he calls them...We’re more than willing to support family farms and agro-corporations doing the right thing. His position is the right position on the H-2A program. But what’s his position on his workers organizing?"

I put the question to Sakuma Brothers Farms by e-mail and will update when I hear back.