Why is Sakuma using guest workers as strikebreakers?
By law, a company can’t hire H-2A guest workers if it is in a labor dispute with its US workforce. But that is exactly what this Washington State berry grower is trying to do. This year Sakuma Farms, in Skagit County, applied for H-2A work visas for 438 workers it intends to bring from Mexico to work during the harvest, from June 18 to October 15. Afterward, they would have to go back to Mexico. Sakuma, one of the largest berry growers in Washington state, hires about 500 workers each picking season. If it recruits 438 of them in Mexico, there will not be enough work for those who have been laboring in its fields every year. Using recruited contract labor to replace workers already living here, whether they are immigrants or native-born, has a long, sordid history. It goes all the way back to the hated bracero program of the 1940s and ’50s, which activists like Cesar Chavez and Ernesto Galarza successfully convinced Congress to abolish in 1964. But guest worker programs never went away entirely. The H-2A program, established in 1986, has been growing every year since then. H-2A-type programs would be greatly expanded in immigration reform bills now in Congress, including those supported by both Democrats and Republicans. And even though those bills haven’t passed, the number of guest workers is rising rapidly anyway. The Nation, 5-2-14.