Workers who handle our food from the farms to the stores launched a new coalition on Saturday that will work in solidarity with Union members fighting for dignity and respect at Darigold.
Farm workers, dairy production workers, grocery distribution workers, lab technicians, and grocery clerks filled the Teamsters Union hall in Tukwila to establish a “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 like Darigold need to recognize that intimidating workers at their food processing plants and turning a blind eye to squalid conditions on their suppliers’ farms is bad for business and bad for our community.”
At the event, workers spoke about conditions on the farms, in the processing plants, in the labs, in the warehouses, and in the stores.
“We work 12 to 14 hours a day without lunch or rest breaks and without water. On top of that, they steal our wages. We’ve been fighting for four years and nothing changes,” said Margarito Martinez, a former farm worker at Ruby Ridge Dairy, a 2,000-cow operation that supplies milk to Darigold.
Lisa Hearing, a lab technician at Darigold’s corporate lab in Tukwila, spoke about the critical nature of her work and Darigold’s intimidation of workers during contract negotiations with the Teamsters.
“The milk comes in off the farm and we test it for raw bacterial count, antibiotics, and a lot of other things. We try to make sure that the milk is safe when it goes to production. It’s really frustrating to be working so long without a contract. You never know if you’re going to show up for work and be locked out.”
Josh Putnam, a 15-year grocery warehouse worker at Fred Meyer, talked about his role in maintaining quality control. “We make sure the product is cold when it comes off the truck and cold in the facility. If my family goes to buy a Darigold product in the store, they need to know that it is safe.”
Workers were also joined by members of UFCW 21 and UFCW 367, two Local Unions that represent thousands of grocery clerks across the Puget Sound region.
“I’m here today because UFCW, my Union, is standing in support of Darigold workers in their fight for dignity and respect,” said Denise Jagieglo, President of UFCW Local 367.
“If ever there was an expression of our interconnectedness, it is through the food that we eat and how it comes to our families,” added Steve Williamson, Director of Community Affairs for UFCW Local 21.
After the meeting, the newly-formed coalition released a set of Farm to Family principles aimed at promoting food safety, workplace justice, respect for animals and the environment. The group pledged to support the farm workers in their fight for justice and to stop Darigold from intimidating workers at its processing plants and to stop breaking the law.
Workers dispatched into the community to educate consumers at area Walmart and Winco stores about Darigold’s unjust and unlawful practices across the food supply chain.