August 13th, 2016
The Pioneer Valley Workers Center asked us to support farm workers that are calling for a boycott of all Driscoll’s brand fresh berries to help them to secure improved wages and working conditions. River Valley Co-op has agreed to actively help support this effort in solidarity with the farm workers and we are asking our customers and community to join us in making this boycott successful.
Driscoll’s is the world’s largest fresh berry producer for both organic and non-organic fresh berries. We are often unable to purchase other brands (except for local berries in season) through our suppliers. Making this decision to support farm workers means we may not have a regular supply of fresh berries. While we seek alternative sources for fresh berries we are asking our customers to please bear with us in support of the farm workers.
We’ve learned that the farm workers of several of the large independent farm companies that Driscoll’s contracts with to purchase berries are asking for our help in improving their wages and working conditions by calling for this boycott of all Driscoll’s Berries brand berries, including both organic and non-organic berries. The farm workers formed a union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia (Families United for Justice), to enable them to secure a contract with the berry producer companies they work for and are seeking Driscoll’s support to leverage their influence on these companies to recognize the union and address improved wages and working conditions in a contract. The berry producer companies in the news are:
• Sukuma Brother’s Burlington, WA
• BerryMex San Quintin, Mexico
The Driscoll’s boycott is specifically targeting grocers in this boycott and asking them to remove the products from their shelves. Several websites showed picketing in front of Costco and other large retailer chains. We want to thank the Pioneer Valley Workers Center for working to get support throughout our community and potentially the whole Northeast.
In addition to ceasing our purchases of Driscoll’s berries, we are communicating with Driscoll’s to ask them to leverage their relationships with these farms to recognize the union, address child labor concerns, improve wages and working conditions for their workers. We are hoping for a timely resolution to this issue for the farm workers.
As you probably know we have always had a policy of providing information and /or alternative products, but not engaging directly in boycotts as part of our co-op’s inclusive approach to the market. (In this case, Driscoll’s dominates the supply chain and that makes it challenging to secure alternative brands.) The reason for this policy is because we respect the many perspectives, priorities, needs, and the sheer personal-ness of people’s food choices including choosing whether or not to personally support any particular boycott.
Making the decision to actively support this boycott is a deviation from our usual boycott policy. However, the request from these farm workers for our support is compelling and we recognize our community’s desire to join together in solidarity to help. The Driscoll’s boycott is an opportunity today to help improve the lives of migrant farm workers in Washington and Mexico while also shining light on injustices in our food system. Working together on this in our community and in many other communities across the country, our hope is that in addition to making a difference for these farm workers’ well being today, ultimately our collective consciousness will move us forward in creating a more sustainable and just food system.
The real possibility that this boycott means we may not have fresh berries (when out of season regionally) highlights the complexities the co-op faces as a grocer working within the context of the fiercely competitive food industry built on unjust, unhealthy, and environmentally damaging practices. Our daily challenge is to effectively serve our community’s grocery needs, while also working to transform the food system we work within.
It is very gratifying and meaningful to me personally to work together with all of you in the co-op with our ambitious mission to create a just marketplace that nourishes the community. In my opinion, there is nothing much more central in any community from a common commerce perspective than food. By serving the food needs of our community as a grocery store, the work of the co-op supporting the community and building a better food system is funded and strengthened. We welcome your questions and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you one and all for your support as a customer and your considerations to join us with this boycott supporting farm workers.