[ Demonstrators briefly block the entrance to the Driscoll's Distribution Center in Aromas, California on October 15, 2016 in solidarity with farmworkers in San Quintín, Mexico leading an international boycott of Driscoll's. ]
Solidarity with San Quintín Farmworkers at Driscoll’s Distribution Center in Aromas, CA
On October 15, 2016, about 40 people, including students from UC Santa Cruz, San Francisco State University, and Watsonville High School, as well as community members from Santa Cruz and Watsonville, came out to the Driscoll's Distribution Center and Berry Store in Aromas, California to relay the message that the boycott of Driscoll's continues until Driscoll's negotiates a union contract with the farmworkers in San Quintín, Mexico who harvest the lucrative berries. Currently, farmworkers receive as little as $6 a day for 12-15 hours of work, with no benefits or job security.
Demonstrators said the action was a great success and another step forward on the path to justice. Actions also occurred on October 15 in Bellingham, WA, Chicago, IL, New York City, NY, San Diego, CA, as well as in Mexico City, Tijuana, and Mexicali, Mexico.
A press release distributed prior to the demonstration states:
Farmworkers in San Quintín, México are urging consumers throughout the world to Boycott Driscoll's products, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. The boycott will continue indefinitely until Driscoll's and their grower affiliates agree to sign a collective contract agreement with the Sindicato Independiente Nacional Democrático de Jornaleros Agrícolas or SINDJA (National Independent Democratic Union of Farmworkers). SINDJA formed in 2015 as a way for farmworkers to organize for living wages, fairer piece rates, better and safer working conditions, enforcement of basic Mexican labor laws, and an end to child labor and sexual violence in the fields.
Driscoll Strawberry Associates is the largest berry corporation in the world, with production and sales on six continents. Driscoll's is the marketing arm of a global network of contract farmers and growers, including BerryMex, which oversees production in San Quintín, México.
Currently, farmworkers in San Quintín, México toil 12 to 15 hours a day in the fields for as little as $6US per day. Many are not provided social security, health insurance or any type of job security. They report widespread instances of child labor and sexual assault and harassment in the fields.
In response to the protest, Driscoll's Berry Store closed early for the day. A Monterey County Sheriff's officer was parked at Driscoll's to inform people of the store's closure.
Demonstrators lined both sides of San Juan Road with homemade signs and banners protesting Driscoll's for labor and human rights violations. People driving by in cars, trucks, and eighteen-wheelers honked and raised their fist in support of the protest.
Michael Gasser of the Santa Cruz Support Committee for the Driscoll’s Boycott held a sign stating, "#BoycottDriscollsContinues until there's a union contract with #SanQuintínSINDJA. No more slave wages and abuse."
Community members from Watsonville displayed signs in Spanish requesting that "Driscoll's negotiate in good faith with the farmworkers of San Quintín" while also asserting that "The struggle of San Quintín is present."
Towards the end of the demonstration, everyone gathered together as the September 7, 2016 communiqué issued by San Quintín farmworkers was read aloud which declares, "We will continue our resistance, boycotting Driscoll's for a better life and a better future for farmworkers' families in San Quintín."
To culminate the day of action in solidarity with farmworkers in San Quintín, people blocked the entrance to the Driscoll's Distribution Center. A Royal Oaks Farms truck carrying pallets of strawberries was briefly delayed by the symbolic action.
Demonstrators vowed to continue their solidarity.
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Bradley Allen is a reporter and photographer in the Monterey Bay area, and part of the Indybay collective.
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