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Skagit berry grower must offer housing to families

Sakuma Bros. Farms lawyer Adam Belzberg said he would appeal. The farm argued that it didn't have enough housing for all of the pickers it needed, plus family members.

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — A Skagit County Superior Court judge says one of Washington state’s largest berry growers must provide housing to workers’ families since it has chosen to provide housing.

Judge Susan Cook ruled Thursday in a case involving Sakuma Bros. Farms that when a farmer provides housing, the farmer is bound by laws against discrimination.

The Skagit Valley Herald reports that a labor group formed at the farm last season brought the case after the farm announced earlier this year that nonworking family members would not be housed. Lawyers for Familias Unidas por la Justicia said the housing rule violated Washington fair housing laws.

Sakuma Bros. Farms lawyer Adam Belzberg said he would appeal. However, for now, the grower will abide by the judge’s decision.

The labor group contended the no-families rule was retaliation for labor organizing activities, but the grower said that wasn’t the case. The farm said that with enough housing for only about 400 people, Sakuma Bros. needed all the available space to house a sufficient workforce to harvest the crops.


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