Judge rules for Sakuma, no contempt charge

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 6:22 PM

BURLINGTON, Wash. -- A Skagit County judge ruled in favor of Sakuma Farms Wednesday, saying the owner did not violate a court order to provide housing to its workers. 

The workers said they had been denied jobs and housing even after Judge Susan Cook told owner Steve Sakuma last week that it could not discriminate or retaliate against berry pickers who have unionized. 

A handful of migrant workers testified Wednesday that Sakuma administrators did not immediately provide housing after last week’s ruling.  Sakuma testified there were logistical and paperwork issues he had to work out, saying you couldn’t just “flip a switch” and make it happen.

Most of the workers ended up testifying that they have been granted jobs and housing this week, One, however, said she was told she would have to give up her housing if she didn’t report to work, even though her husband was working in the fields and she had no one to watch her children.  

After the judge's decision, Steve Sakuma still worried about the future of his farm and relations with its workers.

"There are no winners. I don’t consider ourselves winners. We both lost because that wedge of trust is there. We’ve got to do something about that," he said. 

The workers, though, are claiming victory. They believe the court action forced Sakuma to move more quickly to provide housing and that their newly formed union is stronger because of it. 

Meantime the rest of this berry picking season remains uncertain for Steve Sakuma. He still isn’t sure whether he’ll have enough workers, or enough spaces to house them, when the blueberry crop comes in about 10 days.

 

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