Driscoll’s Runs Away At Watsonville Earth Day

People started speaking about the Driscoll’s boycott, so Driscoll’s got rid of their strawberries and quickly left Watsonville Earth Day.

[ Michael Garcia of the Watsonville Brown Berets holds a boycott Driscoll’s flyer in front of the Driscoll’s booth at Watsonville Earth Day. April 24, 2016. ]

As the top sponsor of Watsonville’s 14th Annual Earth Day / Day of the Child Festival, the philanthropy specialists at Driscoll’s were hopeful that April 24, 2016 would be a great day at Ramsay Park for promoting their brand. The event was advertised as a “free … local celebration of youth, environment and community … featuring live entertainment, low cost food, jump houses and fun activities with over 50 organizations.” When a few people started speaking about the international boycott of Driscoll’s and handing out flyers, the Driscoll’s representatives quickly dismantled their event booth and got rid of their strawberries as fast as they could. Driscoll’s packed everything up and left before three o’clock even though more than an hour remained of the four hour promotional event.

Promoting Driscoll’s or Children and the Environment?

Color flyer for Watsonville Earth Day 2016 featuring the Driscoll's logo.
Color flyer for Watsonville Earth Day 2016 featuring the Driscoll’s logo.

Tami Stolzenthaler, the environmental education coordinator for the city of Watsonville and main organizer of Earth Day, announced the 2015 event on Watsonville Patch, writing:

Over 50 City departments, businesses and non-profit services are joining “together for a healthy and safe Watsonville.” Day of the Child is a traditional Latin American holiday that celebrates the young child and Earth Day has honored the environment for 45 years. This festival promotes protecting our community environment for our future generations.

Businesses are told that Earth Day is a great opportunity for “affordable advertising to tens of thousands of Watsonville residents.” In a February 1, 2016 letter to leading Watsonville businesses requesting event sponsorship, Stolzenthaler writes, “Promote your business at this local celebration of youth, environment and community!” [emphases in the original].

The city of Watsonville, along with dozens of non-profit organizations participating in Earth Day, helps to facilitate an aggressive greenwashing campaign by Driscoll’s. Greenwashing is defined as disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.

Price and Perks of Earth Day Sponsorship

An announcement for Watsonville Earth Day 2016  on the city's website features a large photo of Driscoll's booth and their slogan "Growing Great People."
An announcement for Watsonville Earth Day 2016 on the city’s website features a large photo of Driscoll’s booth and their slogan “Growing Great People.”

As a top tier platinum sponsor of Watsonville’s Earth Day 2016, Driscoll’s presumably donated between $2,500 and $5,000. All donations made to the City of Watsonville for the public event are tax deductible. One nice perk for Driscoll’s, unethical though typical, was that local schools engaged in direct marketing for the company to distribute 10,000 color print flyers to students featuring the Driscoll’s logo.

As platinum sponsors, Driscoll’s and the Register Pajaronian were promised “99,000 Watsonville residents connected each day with your business logo” and promoted in the following ways:

  • Your logo on event banner at FOUR locations: Over Main Street Watsonville downtown; event entry; Ramsay park fence on Main St.; Callaghan Community Center Fence on Main & Freedom
  • Business logo on all event color print media: School flyer to 10,000 students, newspaper ads, and community posters
  • Online Web: City of Watsonville Website and Social Media
  • Event Booth Space, table and chairs

The Register Pajaronian is a thrice weekly newspaper located across the street from Driscoll’s headquarters in Watsonville. The Register Pajaronian is owned and published by Illinois-based News Media Corporation (NMC). In 2012, NMC created a new strategic business unit called News Media Digital, which is responsible for the organization’s digital marketing and advertising ventures. The corporation’s editorial line tends to be conservative, and NMC’s founder, CEO, and President John Tompkins has donated to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Driscoll’s: The Truth Hurts

Michael Garcia of the Watsonville Brown Berets educated people about the boycott and handed out flyers. Garcia observed that, “Driscoll’s packed up and left because they cannot stand the truth being told to consumers about the blood berries they sell.”

Supporters and representatives of Driscoll’s were upset that people had the nerve to counter the greenwashing from the world’s largest berry distributor. One supporter said, “This is not the time to do this because there are children here.”

A supporter of Driscoll's said, “This is not the time to do this because there are children here.”
A supporter of Driscoll’s said, “This is not the time to do this because there are children here.”

There are children working and living under terrible conditions to harvest berries for Driscoll’s in Washington state, Baja California, and many other locations around the world. Workers in both Washington state and Baja California, Mexico have organized into unions, however Driscoll’s refuses to sit down with the unions and negotiate a contract that, they say, would “ensure fair wages, breaks, and protection from wage theft, poison, and abuse in the fields.”

The workers who grow and pack the lucrative berries which are purchased and sold by Driscoll’s are employed by contractors such as Sakuma Bros. in Washington state and BerryMex in Baja California. Driscoll’s uses this very small degree of separation as a way to deny responsibility for the labor and human rights of berry workers.

Michael Garcia, Watsonville Brown Berets

The following is a video and transcription of Michael Garcia of the Watsonville Brown Berets speaking near the Driscoll’s booth at Earth Day in Ramsey Park.

Michael Garcia:

We have children who are working in the fields right now as we speak in San Quintín, Baja California. Children should not be working in the fields. They should be in school getting an education. But instead Driscoll’s is exploiting our people by keeping them impoverished, with poverty wages, slave wages, even no wages. Farmworkers have alleged they’re not even getting paid for the work that they do. Especially the women. And for the children, it’s modern day child slavery. They are forced to work in the field with no pay. And they shouldn’t even be there in the first place. Like I said, they should be in school getting an education, not living under Driscoll’s poverty wages where they pay the average farmworker in San Quintín $7 a day for a 12 hour workday.

There’s an international boycott on Driscoll’s berries, as we speak, in solidarity with the farmworkers in San Quintín, Baja California and Washington state. As consumers we can change these conditions, we can say no more Driscoll’s berries until Driscoll’s actually represents the farmworkers in a good way and lets them unionize, and gives them their rights to a living wage. Not so they’re stuck in the fields working their whole life for poverty wages. They get no benefits, no medical, no dental.

You only see the people that work for the corporation, in the offices, the buildings, that never pick berries one day of their life. Yeah they get the benefits, they get the nice cool offices, they get the clean water. But what do the farmworkers get when they get water? Farmworkers get no water or they get dirty water which is contaminated with the pesticides that they’re using in the fields for these berries which is giving them fatal diseases in the long run once they get older, leaving their children with no mother, no father, because they’re dying at such an early age due to the chemicals and pesticides.

And I see that Driscoll’s wants to start to pack up now and start to leave this event, because we’re out here spreading awareness to consumers about the exploitation that’s happening under their brand, under Sakuma Bros., under Driscoll’s, and they have the power to stop this, but they choose not to stop this, they choose to put human lives under profits.


Previous coverage of the boycott Driscoll’s movement:

Author: Bradley Allen

Bradley Allen is a reporter and photographer in the Monterey Bay Area, and a collective member of the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (Indybay). Follow him on social media: @BradleySA.

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