A U.S. District Court judge in Seattle, Wash., 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 suit 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 suit’s other allegations include that Sarbanand Farms breached its contract with workers by providing low-quality food and violated state law.
The December ruling by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour sets the stage for a jury trial.
Tom Pedreira, the company’s attorney, noted that the ruling is not a finding of wrongdoing, and company “takes seriously its responsibilities with respects to working conditions and worker safety.”
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