Judge cuts Sumas farm fine in half. Activists respond with more lies.
Capital Press reports that the record fine the Department of Labor & Industries imposed on the Sumas farm was cut in half by a Whatcom County judge. The fine was for missed or late rest or meal breaks and had nothing to do with the death of the worker. However, the record level of the fine had everything to do with it as the Department's records showed that publicity generated by union activists blaming the farm for the worker's death prompted the fine to go from an expected $4600 to $149,000. The judge cut it in half leaving the farm paying $70,000 in fines and courts costs – likely still a record amount and way beyond what would be expected for such violations.
But the union activists led by Rosalinda Guillen of Community to Community continue to lie about the farm and its treatment of guest workers. Despite complete exoneration of the farm by the Department of Labor & Industries, they continue to insist the farm was responsible for the death of the worker. They continue to misrepresent worker conditions and the numerous rules and regulations farmers comply with to protect workers. We ask: what other business would be subject to such penalties for missed rest break? Guillen was quoted as saying in this news report: "For us it's immoral, the fact that the life of a farm worker has been negotiated down to $35,000. And the reason they bring in these H2-A workers is because they are exploitable," she said. "It's like slavery. It's like the value of a worker is actually being calculated. It's disgusting."
What is disgusting and immoral is how, in the face of the indisputable facts about the man's tragic death, this activist continues to pursue her agenda of taking union dues from these workers and attempting to destroy the reputation not just of this farm but of all farms in the area. What is even more disgusting to farmers is those people, groups, companies and churches who choose to believe these lies and support the actions that are so harmful to the workers they say they are trying to help. We challenge them: talk to the workers. Get the facts. Learn that the option for these workers is to go to work in Mexican farm fields where the pay is twenty to thirty times less than what they receive here and where the worker protections are far, far less than what they receive on local farms.
We encourage everyone in the community who cares about the truth to challenge those who support this damaging, dishonest and immoral activism.
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The summary facts about the Sumas berry farm and guest workers:
The use of guest workers, not any action of the farm, prompted the union activists to foment worker action against the farm
The tragic death of a worker by natural causes has been cynically and immorally used as a pretext for protests and continued lies about the farm's treatment of workers
Community to Community is a union activist organization working to generate union dues by limiting access to workers through the guest worker program
The numerous lies and false accusations are well documented including on this website
The H2A or guest worker program contains extensive worker protections in addition to the numerous labor laws and regulations that protect all farm workers
Washington farmers are at an increasing competitive disadvantage over their foreign competitors because they already pay 20-30 times or more what foreign farmers pay as well as the high costs of environmental, safety and health regulations