May 19, 2016 Dena Jensen (Updated May 19, 2016 at 5:15 p.m.)
In mid-March 2016 Familias Unidas por la Jusiticia launched a 28 day tour of the West Coast to “energize a major offensive on the boycott of Driscoll’s berries.” The second stop on their tour was at at Whole Foods Market in Portland, Oregon. I wanted to put together a few pieces of information about this month’s opening of Whole Foods Market here in Bellingham as it relates to the boycott of Driscoll’s
Here is a link to a May 11, 2016 Facebook post of the Press Release by Familias Unidas por la Justicia covering their action at the opening on that day of the Whole Foods Market, Lakeway Center, Bellingham location.
An excerpt from the press release stated: “Near the end of the protest when organizers attempted to deliver a letter to Whole Foods management explaining their cause multiple managers refused to take the letter or speak about the issues.”
Since the May 11 opening of the Bellingham Whole Foods location, a picket is being organized for May 28, 2016 at 1 p.m. to further inform the community about the details and importance of the Driscoll’s boycott. This is a link to the Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1011802018867187/
The following is the text from the event information page:
Hello! Join us in supporting Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), an independent union of farmworkers who have called for a Boycott of Driscoll Berries until they have a fair union contract, they are paid living wages and can work under safe and healthy conditions.
FUJ has asked Whole Foods to remove Driscoll’s berries from their shelves until farm workers both here in Washington and in San Quintin, MX have fair union contracts and respect in the fields.
We will be demonstrating outside the store to let people know about the boycott. All are welcome, no experience necessary!
Meet at Whole Foods at 1:00, carpool leaves Fairhaven parking lot at 12:45.
Today I sent a comment, via Whole Foods Market website, to Bellingham, Whole Foods :
Dear Whole Foods Market, Bellingham Management,
I have been very disappointed to hear that your store has chosen not to honor the boycott of Driscoll’s Berries. I am especially disturbed to hear that your store management has not arranged a meeting with farm workers to hear their grievances. Meanwhile, having a big display of Driscoll’s products in the front of your store seems to be an additional insult added to your apparent lack of concern about this situation.
The farm workers here in Whatcom County are very important to our community. We value their human rights as our own and are lucky that local farm workers are reaching out to us and educating us on the unfair and oppressive working conditions that they are experiencing at the hands of farms that Driscoll’s distributes for in our region, as well as unfair and oppressive conditions workers experience in other locations where Driscoll’s products are sold.
I understand that your company has spoken with the Driscoll’s corporation but this is certainly not sufficient for gaining an understanding of all aspects of their treatment of their workers. I ask that your store boycott Driscoll’s until you are confident, through creating a respectful dialogue with farm workers, that their human rights are not being violated.
You can deliver your own comment to support farm worker justice and ask Whole Foods Market, Lakeway Center, Bellingham location to join the Driscoll’s boycott at this link: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/bellinghamlakeway
Or you can call! The phone number for Whole Foods Market Pacific Northwest Region office: 425-957-6700
Update, May 19, 2016 at 5:15 p.m.:
I received an email response to my comment (posted above) from Mr. Otto Leuschel, the Store Team Leader of Whole Foods Market, Lakeway Center, Bellingham location:
Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2016 3:38 PM
Subject: Driscoll Berries
I am happy to talk to you about this on the phone. My answer is a bit lengthy for email. Here is the official company letter, but I am happy to speak further with you if you like.
Otto H. Leuschel
Store Team Leader
Whole Foods Market
This is a copy of the “official company letter” that Mr. Leuschel refers to in his email:
After receiving Mr. Leuschel’s email, I sent the following response:
Dear Mr. Leuschel,
Thank you for your email response to the communication I sent to Whole Foods Market, Lakeway Center, Bellingham via the online form on the Whole Foods Market website. Thank you also, for sending your official company letter regarding your suppliers’ labor practices and the issue of Whole Foods carrying Driscoll’s products. I believe I have read it before.
From my comment, you are aware that I am not satisfied with Whole Foods simply taking the word of Driscoll’s regarding how well they are treating farm workers. I am also not satisfied with Whole Foods statement that they are doing more than any other supermarket to ensure the rights and working conditions of the men and women who grow the produce you sell. I would never just accept your word on this treatment, just as I would not expect you to accept just Driscoll’s word on the treatment of their workers.
Thank you for offering to speak with me on the phone, but it is not me with whom I would like you to speak. I encourage you to direct your offer of extended discussion to Familias Unidas por la Justicia so that you may begin a dialogue with farm workers in order to become educated on their experience of treatment by Driscoll’s and, here locally, by Sakuma Farms. When farm workers visit the Bellingham Whole Foods store, I ask that you listen to what they are saying, arrange time to further talk with them, and accept communications to your management that they deliver.
I look forward to hearing soon that you are talking with farm workers and that you are honoring the Driscoll’s boycott. That will be a good start to my having confidence that you care about farm workers and care about this new community that you are hoping to do business in.
I am posting all of this information in the hopes that it will help community members to be aware of information that citizens are sharing with Whole Foods and that Whole Foods is sharing with citizens.