The Driscoll’s boycott has been in effect since late 2015, but has picked up speed recently, particularly with the endorsement of groups like the Yolo County Democrats. The boycott began because Driscoll’s, a company based in California, outsources a large part of its farm labor to San Quintín, Mexico, in Baja California, where workers make around $6 a day, and allegations of sexual assault and child labor are common. The farm workers have formed a union, but Driscoll’s has refused to negotiate with the representatives, which is why workers have called for a boycott.
Despite the farms being in Mexico, Yolo County Dems, and other organizations, feel that it’s imperative that we use our power as consumers to stand against unjust labor practices wherever they happen. Dillan points out it’s especially troubling, because Mexico is not only our neighbor, they’re a vital trade partner and member of NAFTA. With plenty of US elected officials penning and passing legislation aimed at gutting unions, this is not just Mexico’s issue, but one that affects all the members of NAFTA, and working people everywhere.
Part of the reason that unfair farming practices can still exist is because smaller farms are struggling to survive, particularly outside of the US. With the establishment of NAFTA, US farms were able to expand their markets and compete with Canadian and Mexican farmers in their respective countries. However, many farms and agribusinesses in Canada and Mexico were unable to compete with the heavily subsidized US agriculture, and as a result, US agriculture managed to monopolize the market. Even within the United States, the consolidation of Big Agriculture, and the inability of small farmers to compete has concentrated economic power in very few, large, subsidized American corporations.
Counterintuitively, the United Farmworkers’ Union – famous for its boycotts of grapes and tomatoes here in California, and for its leadership like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta – has not publically supported the strikes and boycotts of Driscoll’s. This is, in part, because of a change in the makeup of the board of the union, which has been colonized by represetatives from agribusiness.
Another challenge the boycott faces is the inability to access Driscoll’s finances. Driscoll’s is a private company – it has not gone public, meaning it does not have to publish quarterly earning statements, or answer to investors. This means that there are not public records, or even shareholder records, of its earnings, which makes it difficult to assess the level of financial pressure felt by the company. Regardless, it’s still possible to bring Driscoll’s to the negotiating table, whether negotiators have the exact numbers for Driscoll’s losses or not.
To effectively participate in the boycott, one merely needs to not buy Driscoll’s berries wherever they’re sold. In Yolo, that includes Trader Joe’s, Coscto, Safeway, and the Nugget. This doesn’t require boycotting the store – Safeway has other berry choices besides Driscoll’s – simply not buying the berries will do. In addition, share. No, not your berries, the information. The more folks who know and participate in the boycott, the more power the workers will have when Driscoll’s comes to the negotiating table, and the sooner that will happen. Post about your boycott on social media, tell your friends about it – particularly if you know they’re ‘regular berry consumers,’ and encourage them to share, as well.
The sooner Driscoll’s feels the financial pressure, the sooner these workers will have justice.
You can read Dillan’s piece in the Vanguard here.