Farm workers at Greenwood Mushrooms Sunnyside – formerly known as Ostrom Mushroom Farms – will lead a demonstration at the University of Washington on Cesar Chavez Day (Friday, March 31st) alongside the University of Washington’s UFW Support Group, Students For Farm Workers (SFFW). This demonstration is the United Farm Workers’ only official Cesar Chavez Day event in the Seattle area.
Students and other farm worker allies are rallying to support Ostrom/Greenwood workers’ unionization campaign Friday, March 31, at 12 noon at the University of Washington’s (UW’s)Red Square, located at 4063 Spokane Ln., Seattle, WA 98105.
Hundreds of people will be gathering to hear worker testimonies and solidarity statements from student groups and supporting organizations. This will be followed by a brief march around the UW Hub, a location of historical significance for the UFW, given the history of students organizing to support the grape boycott here in the late 60s.
For the past year, the Sunnyside mushroom workers have been fighting for a UFW contract. The campaign began after Ostrom Mushroom Farms in Sunnyside, WA illegally fired 140 U.S.-based workers, most of whom were women with years of experience, and illegally replaced them with H-2A workers, most of whom were men. This resulted in a lawsuit from the Washington Attorney General, who called Ostrom’s conduct “disturbing and unlawful.” Ostrom is also being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for wage violations in their use of the H-2A program. The Sunnyside Mushroom workers are demanding a union contract that guarantees safer working conditions, fair wages and hours, and protection from retaliation they have faced from management for speaking up about their rights.
In February of this year, Ostrom sold the farm in Sunnyside to the Canadian company Windmill Farms, and the facility was renamed Greenwood Mushrooms Sunnyside. The farm’s new management terminated all workers and then “rehired” them for lower wages and oppressive arbitration agreements. A number of workers were demoted to harvesters, the most physically demanding job on the farm. Workers were given only 24 hours to accept the new “offers”, and most did, having no other options.
Nevertheless, the organizing drive continues. The new management is effectively the same as the old management. Workers are still facing the same mistreatment and exploitation. Like “Ostrom” before it, “Greenwood” has refused to recognize the union or even to meet with its members and hear their demands. Workers will not give up until they have a union contract.
The UFW and SSFW rally will demand that Greenwood be held accountable and recognize workers’ demands, including recognition of the union. We ask that customers of Ostrom/Greenwood, such as universities, restaurants, and retailers, demonstrate their support for the mushroom workers in Sunnyside, and their fight for union recognition. We ask those doing business with Greenwood Mushrooms Sunnyside to reconsider their relationship with the company until management negotiates a contract for fair wages and safe working conditions with the UFW.
The University of Washington is willing to cooperate with this campaign. SFFW shared with them the conditions that the workers are facing. University of Washington leadership has communicated that they will notify management at Greenwood Mushrooms Sunnyside and take appropriate action if the company does not negotiate with the workers for a contract.