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Workers’ suit against Whatcom farm given class-action status

December 21, 2018

SEATTLE (AP) — A U.S. District Court judge in Seattle has certified a class-action lawsuit on behalf of some 600 Mexican workers who have alleged labor abuses at a Whatcom County blueberry farm.

The Seattle Times reports the lawsuit alleges the company violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which prohibits forced labor, through threats and implied threats that the workers would be sent to Mexico if they complained or did not meet production standards.

The lawsuit’s other allegations include that Sarbanand Farms breached its contract with workers by providing low-quality food and violated Washington law by firing workers who staged a one-day strike.

The ruling Thursday by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour sets the stage for a jury trial in a case filed by Columbia Legal Services.

Tom Pedreira, the company’s general counsel, noted that the judge’s ruling is not a finding of any wrongdoing, and that Sarbanand Farms “takes seriously its responsibilities with respects to working conditions and worker safety.”

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