[ A customer enters a Whole Foods Market in Santa Cruz holding a flyer that says, “Don’t Buy Driscoll’s: Respect The Families Who Grow Your Food.” Ruby Campos and Oscar Montiel display flyers in support the campaign. ]
On the afternoon of Friday, February 26, demonstrators gathered at Whole Foods Market in Santa Cruz, California to protest Driscoll’s, the largest berry distributor in the world with a history unjust labor practices and repression of union organizing. Founded in the Pajaro Valley in 1904, Driscoll’s is a privately held company with headquarters in Watsonville, California. Production of Driscoll’s berries extends into 22 countries.
Workers who grow, harvest, and pack Driscoll’s lucrative berries are struggling against the systematic abuses they are forced to endure, and the companies profiting from the exploitation of their collective labor. Demonstrators say they support the farmworkers, including the boycott they initiated against Driscoll’s, and cite poor working and living conditions, as well as growers refusing to negotiate with the workers’ unions: Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ) [Families United for Justice] in Washington State and the Sindicato Independiente Nacional Democrático de Jornaleros Agrícolas (SINDJA) [National Democratic Union of Independent Farmworkers] in Baja California. The union SINDJA is called La Alianza (The Alliance) for short.
Tomás Madrigal explains, “In 2013 farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington, Washington launched a boycott against Sakuma. In response to the successful boycott against their brand, Sakuma Brothers shifted production in 2014 and began packing fresh market berries exclusively into Driscoll’s label cartons.”
As Driscoll’s continues to stand behind Sakuma Brothers Farms, workers in Washington State expanded their focus from Sakuma Brothers and towards the boycott of Driscoll’s. The call to boycott Driscoll’s was internationalized after a farmworker rebellion in the San Quintín Valley of Baja California reached a boiling point in March 2015.
On February 7, 2016, Maestra (Teacher) Gloria Gracida, the spokesperson of La Alianza met with Familias Unidas Por La Justicia in Washington State. Familias Unidas created a video for information and inspiration in which they, along with Maestra Gloria, express appreciation to the numerous boycott support committees throughout the United States. “Thank you to all the people who enter the stores and raise the consciousness of the consumers, because we are going to win this struggle together with you all.” Maestra Gloria affirms.
On February 12, 2016, a delegation of National Farm Worker Ministry board members and staff met with Danny Weeden, CEO of Sakuma Brothers and John Erb, VP of Supply and Operations of Driscoll’s, at The United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. The meeting lasted almost two hours.
National Farm Worker Ministry, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, is “a faith-based organization committed to justice for and empowerment of farm workers. NFWM educates, equips and mobilizes member organizations and other faith communities, groups and individuals to support farm worker led efforts to improve their living and working conditions.”
NFWM reports that “the meeting ended with no promises from Weeden or Erb to meet with the farm workers. And so we continue our support of the boycott.”
Boycott Driscoll’s Tour
This March and April, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice), in solidarity with la Alianza de San Quintín, is organizing a month long west coast tour “to strengthen the boycott of Driscoll’s berries all over the west coast of the United States and build connections and solidarity with other movement organizations fighting to change the food system.”
Familias Unidas announced their planned tour route and schedule, and are working to set up events in the following cities:
March 18 – Portland, OR
March 19 – Eugene, OR
March 20 – Medford, OR
March 21 and 22 – Arcata, CA
March 24 – Sacramento CA
March 25 – Modesto CA
March 26 to April 1 (Bay Area with events in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose, Watsonville, & Santa Cruz)
Action in Watsonville on March 31
April 4 – Santa Maria, CA
April 5-7 – Los Angeles, CA
April 8-10 – San Diego, CA
April 11 – Delano, CA
April 12 – Fresno, CA
April 13 – Bay Area
On March 17, 2016, the first anniversary of the strike in San Quintín, a mega march and caravan will begin to make it’s way through the Baja California towns of Maneadero, Ensenada, and Rosarito before arriving in Tijuana on March 19 for a reunion with organizations, activists, and unionists that support the struggle of farmworkers and their call to Boycott Driscoll’s.
The National Democratic Union of Independent Farmworkers in San Quintín states, “We will continue to struggle for the original demands we made. As of today none of them have been met. We continue to raise our voices.”
Outside of a Whole Foods Market in Santa Cruz, Michael Joseph urged customers, “Don’t buy Driscoll’s berries until the farmworkers get the basic human rights they deserve!”
For more information, including an interview with Driscoll’s Americas executive vice president Soren Bjorn, see: