In the summer of 2013, migrant farmworkers on a berry farm in Skagit County, Washington, about an hour north of Seattle, began to organize against poor working and housing conditions and for better wages. The labor group they created, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), is an independent union, led by indigenous Mixtec and Triqui immigrants from Mexico, and now represents more than 500 Mixteco, Triqui, and Spanish-speaking farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms.
For three years, FUJ organized effective strikes and walkouts. The group, along with berry farm workers in Mexico’s San Quintin Valley, received widespread notice in 2016 for coordinating a boycott of Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry distributor and a major buyer of product from Sakuma Brothers Farms. And in September 2016, the farm’s workers voted to officially have FUJ represent them as a union in negotiations — making FUJ the first new farmworker union in the US in 25 years, journalist David Bacon reported.
In less than a year, FUJ negotiated a contract with Sakuma Brothers guaranteeing a $15 hourly wage (Washington’s minimum is $11), establishing a grievance procedure, and ensuring “just cause” protections.
Immigrant farmworkers in Upstate New York face similar issues as their West Coast counterparts — low wages, poor working conditions, bad housing, discrimination. Later this month, organizers from Familias Unidas por la Justicia and Community to Community Development, a Washington farmworker support organization, will join members of Alianza Agricola, a Western New York farmworker organization, for an Upstate New York speaking tour called “El Movimiento Campesino: de Norte a Sur, de Este a Deste” (“The Farmworker Movement: From North to South, East to West”). Events are scheduled March 24 through March 27 at SUNY Geneseo and Cornell University, with a roundtable discussion at the University of Rochester on Monday, March 26.