Striking berry pickers picket Uwajimaya

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Strikers from the berry fields of Skagit County spread to the streets of Seattle’s Chinatown Wednesday. They targeted the city’s landmark Uwajimaya Market where berries from Sakuma Brothers Farms are sold under the "Berry Time" label.

Workers asked market managers to remove Sakuma products from store shelves.

“We want people to be treated right,” said one picketer. “We want them to have dignity and respect.”

Pickers are pushing for something very rare in their world -- a contract with the company guaranteeing a fair wage and job security. Their campaign is stretching into its tenth week and is now intensifying with a week-long strike, accusations of intimidation, and the firing of a labor organizer.

Sakuma Brothers have reportedly brought in 100 so-called "guest workers" from Mexico, and hired security guards to patrol camps where the different work groups live. Organizer Rosalinda Guillen thinks the guards are to keep groups from further organizing.

“They've told the guest workers not to talk to these workers,” she said. “If we see you relating to these domestic workers, we'll send you back. So, to ensure that, they're under guard.”

After a short conversation with picketers, an Uwajimaya manager removed Sakuma blueberries from the produce stand. A small, but sweet victory for the workers. They continue to urge people to contact the company, along with its partners: Driscoll’s, Haagen-Dazs and Charlie’s Produce to support a fair contract.

Calls to Sakuma Brothers management for comment were not returned Wednesday.

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