danger sign sarbanand
Blueberry field at Sarbanand Farms in Sumas, Washington. Photo Credit: Krista Rome

By Sandy Robson

June 24, 2018

In a full courtroom in Whatcom County District Court on Tuesday morning, June 19, 2018, attendees heard Judge Pro Tempore Dave Cottingham agree to Sarbanand Farms’ request that the $73,000 penalty it was assessed by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), be reduced by half, to $36,500. The proceedings that day serve to raise significant doubt as to the ability of state and local agencies to take actions that would adequately identify and prevent abuse of farm workers employed by farms under the H-2A visa program. 

By Sandy Robson

June 3, 2018

This is a follow-up story with additional details related to my March 25, 2018 article. That article had reported on what was known back at that time about Washington state Senator Doug Ericksen’s March 21, 2018 visit to Meridian High School (MHS), as he described it, to talk with students about gun violence and school safety. Ericksen, a Republican from Ferndale, Washington, is running for re-election to the state Senate this year.

Whatcom County Courthouse for Article Author JanetCaen
Photo Credit: Janet Caen

By Sandy Robson

May 27, 2018

Ever wonder what is sometimes involved with trying to get a government agency to answer what should be a simple question? I thought I’d give people a picture of how I spent my entire afternoon, Wednesday, May 24, 2018, trying to find out the name and position title of the attorney who was present, on behalf of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), at a May 23, 2018, Whatcom County District Court proceeding. The proceeding involved Sarbanand Farms, located in Sumas, Washington, and L&I. I was seeking the attorney’s name to include in an article I was putting together about the May 23, court proceeding.

sarbanand farms sign

By Sandy Robson

April 27, 2018

Adding to the list of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I) inspections of Sarbanand Farms in Sumas, Washington, in 2017, is another safety and health inspection I learned more about on Wednesday, April 25. Inspection number 317946364 was conducted by L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) after being initiated back in June 2017, although it was not mentioned in L&I’s February 1, 2018 press release announcing its findings from investigations at Sarbanand Farms which the department initiated in August 2017.

The DOSH inspection initiated in June 2017 did find that Sarbanand Farms had committed a serious violation involving an employee injury. 

Workers receive news about co-workers and Honesto
Remaining workers in the fields at Sarbanand Farms on August 5, 2017 listen to advocates telling them that some of their co-workers were fired earlier that day, and that Honesto Silva Ibarra was in the hospital. Photo Credit: Edgar Franks.

By Sandy Robson

April 23, 2018

In a February 1, 2018 letter sent to Robert Hawk, CEO of Sarbanand Farms, LLC, Deibi Sibrian, Industrial Relations Agent with Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) wrote, in part:

By Sandy Robson

March 15, 2018

On January 6, 2018, Republican state Senator Douglas Ericksen found himself on the front page of The Bellingham Herald, and the subject of headlines in numerous other news publications later that day and over the weekend, for having been appointed to the position of senior adviser to the regional administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 10 office, in Seattle, Washington. Ericksen tried to quash that news by saying the story was false, and by calling those press reports “erroneous.” Local reporter Kie Relyea, first broke the story on January 5, in the online version of The Bellingham Herald.