By Sandy Robson
Originally Posted at  The Searchlight Review
April 23, 2018

In a February 1, 2018 letter sent to Robert Hawk, CEO of Sarbanand Farms, LLC, Deibi Sibrian, Industrial Relations Agent with Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) wrote, in part:

“During the course of our investigation, we found significant violations of the meal and rest period regulation, WAC 296-131-020. Our review of your records and employee statements show that you committed meal and rest period violations involving hundreds of workers on multiple occasions.”

There were multiple investigations conducted by L&I after the tragic death of H-2A guest worker, Honesto Silva Ibarra, a married father of three, who, while working during the 2017 summer blueberry season at Sarbanand Farms in Sumas, Washington, became ill and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital on August 2, 2017. He later died on August 6, 2017, at Harborview Medical Center, in Seattle, after having been transported there on or around August 3, 2017.

Farm workers walking on road alongside Sarbanand Farms on August 5, 2017, after they were fired that day by farm management for going on strike on August 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Andrew Eckels

Farm workers walking on road alongside Sarbanand Farms on August 5, 2017, after they were fired that day by farm management for going on strike on August 4, 2017. Photo Credit: Andrew Eckels

Various news articles published last summer reported Mr. Silva Ibarra’s age having been 26 years old, or 28 years old. The seattlepi.com obituary list on which Honesto Silva Ibarra’s name appeared on August 15, 2017, after the death certificate had been filed, listed his age at 30 years old, and listed his city of residence as being Ojocali, Mexico.

Two days after Mr. Silva Ibarra was taken away from the farm by ambulance, approximately 70 to 80 of the H-2A farm workers at Sarbanand Farms refused to work on August 4, striking in protest of what they said were poor working conditions at the farm, and over what they said was a lack of timely medical attention to Mr. Silva Ibarra. Then, the next morning, on August 5, 2017, the striking workers were fired by the farm’s management and were given one hour to gather their things and leave the farm.

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