The Skagit County Superior Court ruled today that Sakuma Brothers Farms must stop prohibiting farm workers who live at its labor camps from having visitors in their own homes. The court also struck down rules preventing distribution of literature at the camps.
After workers unionized last year, Sakuma changed its rules in 2014 to prohibit anyone who was not a resident of a cabin from entering that cabin, and to require all visitors to use the “visitor center,” a sparsely furnished trailer near the guard house, with access controlled by Sakuma’s guards. The effect of the rules was to stop workers’ family members from entering their homes, stop workers from visiting each other for any reason – including to talk about working conditions or plan union activities – and to stop union organizers from doing their work in the camps.
The court found that the restrictions violated workers’ rights as tenants to use and enjoy their homes. It also said that the rules violated state labor law because the rules interfere with workers’ right to organize, and because Sakuma changed the rules in retaliation for workers’ union activities in the past year.
“The court recognized our dignity as human beings and as workers with this decision,” said Felimon Pineda, Vice President of Familias Unidas. “This is a victory for the union and for all the workers who live in the camps.”
The ruling is another court victory for farm workers in an ongoing struggle by Familias Unidas por la Justicia, the union of workers at Sakuma, to get a union contract with the company. In June, the Court found that Sakuma unlawfully excluded families from its housing and barred formerly-striking workers from employment and ordered Sakuma to accept Familias members’ applications and house the families of the workers it hired.
The Court allowed Sakuma to set reasonable visiting hours and to ask visitors to identify themselves.
On another request to the court by Familias Unidas, Sakuma agreed to remove language from its job application that would be interpreted by workers as prohibiting them from participating in union activity while they work at Sakuma.