Bargaining with Fred Meyer Breaks Off; Food Distribution at Risk

Contract negotiations involving more than 400 warehouse workers, represented by Teamsters Local 117, and Fred Meyer broke off last night.  Key issues in bargaining are health care and Fred Meyer’s insistence on language that would allow the company to outsource the workers’ jobs to a third-party subcontractor. 

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Rally to Support Farmworker Justice

A rally to support Sakuma Bros. farmworkers will be held tomorrow, Wednesday September 10th starting at 5:30 p.m. at the QFC at 1401 Broadway in Seattle (between Pike and Union).  

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Darigold in the hotseat: Consumers bring class-action lawsuit against company

Consumers have brought a federal class-action lawsuit against Darigold, alleging that the company mistreats animals and violates workers' rights.  

On May 8, the Oregonian published the following story about the complaint:

Darigold focus of lawsuit alleging animal abuse, violations of workers' rights
Published in the Oregonian on May 8, 2014
By Lynne Terry 

Consumers have filed a federal complaint against Darigold, one of the largest dairy producers in the country, accusing the cooperative of violating workers rights and milking sick and injured cows.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, says the company bills itself as a champion of good labor practices and animal husbandry but in reality produces milk "under conditions where dairy cows are injured and sick, where despite suffering from bloody and swollen udders, cows are still milked, and where workers are denied the most basic labor protections, such as drinkable water, lunch rooms, meal and rest periods and an environment free of discrimination."

Darigold responded in the statement, refuting the allegations.

“After review of the claims we are confident that they are meritless and will fail in the course of litigation,” said Steve Rowe, Darigold's senior vice president of corporate affairs, in the statement. “The claims that our dairy producers do not adequately take care of their employees or animals is not only inaccurate, it is offensive to generations of our dairy farm families and the employees who care for the animals."

The complaint names two plaintiffs – Fernando Dorantes of Bend and Yesenia Ruiz of Daly City, Calif., on behalf of other as-yet-unnamed consumers. It says they were both deceived into regularly buying Darigold products by its Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

Published on the company's website, the report paints a picture of Darigold's 500-plus dairies, including 69 in Oregon, as environmental stewards that put animal care and comfort first. The report says the company follows labor laws and treats its 1,500 workers ethically, respecting their human rights. But the complaint alleges that immigrant workers are routinely subject to racial slurs and that management is aware of the conditions.

It seeks unspecified damages.

In 2009, workers at Ruby Ridge Dairy in Washington state filed suit against Darigold, accusing the company of violating labor laws. The case in still grinding through the courts.

Darigold sells $2 billion worth of dairy products every year, with member dairies in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California and Montana.

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How do you ensure your food is safe?

Food-Safety-tomato2.jpgOne of our coalition partners, the United Farm Workers, is promoting an exciting new food certification process called the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI).  

Read more about the project from an email distributed by the UFW:

"Responsibly grown, farmworker assured." That's the new tagline for the Equitable Food Initiative, or EFI, a new food label certification. But these days, there are lots of labels on the market, how do you know what's what?

In the case of food, the answer is easy. Ask the workers. They are on the front line. They handle your food. They see what goes on in the fields where your food is grown.

As one of the co-founders of the EFI, here's what the UFW has done. In partnership with the leading food safety and environmental stewardship organizations in the US, we developed a standard for farms that ensures workers a safer, more dignified place of employment. But we didn't stop there. The EFI also requires that both workers and managers are trained around the EFI standard and how to work together to bring the farm into compliance. Once a farm fulfills the requirements, they're allowed to use the EFI label.

But the work doesn't stop there. Workers and management continue to collaborate to ensure ongoing compliance. A new system will allow workers and managers to communicate with the EFI, anonymously if needed, to report any serious violations.

Want to learn more? Click here to check out a one minute video and take the pledge.

Worker knowledge and empowerment. These have been the bedrock values of the farmworker movement. We're now bringing them to bear in a new way. Responsibly grown, farmworker assured. Sign the pledge today.


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Teamsters Gearing up for Grocery Negotiations

Safeway-Freezer---FTF-Photo.jpgContract negotiations are scheduled to begin this summer between the Teamsters and the Puget Sound area's four major grocery houses:  Safeway, Fred Meyer, Unified Grocers, and SuperValu.

Grocery warehouse and distribution is one of Teamsters Local 117's core industries; the Local has over 1100 members working in the industry.

"We need to show a willingness not to back down, and make sure that members at all four distribution centers are united," said Roger Fields, a 31-year Union member at SuperValu.

Many members have identified their health care coverage as one of the key issues.

"Medical is very important.  We need to preserve that.  That's our number one focus.  Whatever we have to do, we'll do," said Joann Lind, who has worked at Unified Grocers for nearly 30 years.

 The Farm to Family Coalition will be closing watching these negotiations and providing updates as they become available.

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We are at the table! Farm 2 Family participating in State food system roundtable

Brenda-Wiest.jpgBrenda Wiest, from Teamsters 117 and Farm to Family has been asked to sit at the Washington State Food System Roundtable. 

The Roundtable was created by Governor Gregoire to examine state food policy, food-related programs, and food-related issues.  The Roundtable’s work is guided by a set of Values and Principles and its mission is to create a 25-year vision for our state’s food system. Governor Inslee has continued the State’s commitment to the effort.

“I am excited to be a part of this important project.  Farm to Family shares many of the values the Food System Roundtable seeks to set as statewide policies.  Making our food system sustainable, promoting social justice and health equity, eliminating food insecurity, assuring a safe, healthy, secure, affordable food for everyone are core to the missions of both organizations.”

Wiest joins UFCW 367, another Farm to Family stakeholder, at the table.

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Got Green? Hosting 4 Community Workshops

GotGreenWorkshops.jpgGot Green’s Food Access Team is hosting a free four-part workshop series for South Seattle’s women of color and low-income women. After a successful 2013 securing the Fresh Bucks program in Seattle’s city budget, the team decided they need more information about local food access issues and to expand their membership before embarking on their next campaign. These workshops are designed in response to the team’s desire to reach out to the community about food access issues and to bring new women onto the team.

If you are interested in these issues and would like to know more about the Women in the Green Economy’s Food Access team, check out their workshops in our events section.

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SIGN THE PETITION: Support Darigold Farmworkers!

Darigold-March---Portland.jpgYour voice has been heard. A small delegation of dairy workers was greeted by Darigold General Counsel Steve Rowe, when they visited Darigold Seattle Headquarters on January 16th. This delegation was part of the larger group of scores of farm workers, Farm to Family Coalition members and union members who gathered that day to protest the ongoing reported abuses at their supplier dairies.

Help us continue moving forward. On March 2, a similar action will be held at Darigold's Portland plant. At that time, the workers will be submitting this online petition which already has nearly 3,000 signatures.

Can you please sign this petition today? 


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Farm to Family Coalition Rallies in Support of Farm Workers

Farm workers, Farm to Family Coalition members, and their supporters rallied at Darigold Corporate Headquarters in Seattle on Thursday to demand that the company put a stop to the abuse of workers on the farms that supply Darigold’s milk. 

View photos from yesterday's rally.

Dairy workers, who had traveled from eastern Washington to attend the event, described squalid conditions on the farms. They spoke of rest and meal breaks denied by their employers, a lack of access to clean drinking water, and rampant wage theft.

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Labor and community groups launch Farm to Family Coalition

Workers who handle our food have launched a new Farm to Family coalition that will promote health and safety, workplace justice, and environmental stewardship as food travels from our region’s farms to the tables of families in our communities.

“Workers play a vital role in ensuring that the food we enjoy is healthy and safe,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Employers need to recognize that intimidating workers is bad for business and bad for our community.”

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