US: Farm workers strike one week before Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

One week before the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is due to kick off, more than 70 farm workers are striking against a major player in the Tulip Festival, the Washington Bulb Company.

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival brings about a million tourists each year to see the colorful fields between Mount Vernon, La Conner, and Burlington. Washington Bulb is the nation’s largest tulip bulb company, and in addition to selling bulbs and cut flowers, runs Roozengaarde, one of the valley’s two tulip display gardens. 

Edgar Franks, political director for the farm workers’ union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, said the workers are asking for higher pay and safer, healthier working conditions. That would entail more bathrooms and improved access to drinking water while out in the fields, as well as protective equipment when working with pesticides.

“A lot of the chemicals that are applied on to the tulips and the daffodils, when you’re cutting tulips and the daffodils, sometimes they leak a little liquid. That liquid, if it gets on your skin, can become corrosive,” Franks said. “Some people have developed allergic reactions to it, and it has caused sores and lesions on their arms and their hands. Sometimes it gets sprayed on their face when they’re cutting the flowers.”

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