Legal observers worry a ruling against a California law could signal a willingness to undermine labor codes with ‘states’ rights’ arguments.
From the start a labor rule allowing union access to farmworkers in the field helped level the relationship between workers and growers.
Farmworkers may be considered “essential,” but the undocumented workers who pick the nation’s food are excluded from the CARES Act.
Protest marches, which also commemorated the birthday of UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez, follow several months of UFW activity opposing immigration enforcement, and of organizing workers to defend themselves against it.
The message from the California Supreme Court to growers is that when farm workers vote for the union, a state law has teeth that can force companies to negotiate.
Co-published by The American Prospect /
“Sustainability” is the mantra for many groups and businesses near the Salton Sea. But sustainability for whom? BY DAVID BACON
For over 160 years the California State Fair has been run by growers to showcase the wonders and wealth of the state’s agriculture. And for over 160 years the fair did this without mentioning the people whose labor makes agriculture possible: farmworkers. This year that changed.
When writer and veteran union organizer David Bacon speaks of “people who travel with the crops,” he means the agricultural workers who move from place to place to cultivate and harvest California’s fields. They are also the subject of his newest work of photojournalism.
When Cesar Chavez led a band of farm workers on their historic 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento half a century ago, they prominently displayed banners of the Virgin de Guadalupe throughout the line. Why? Because that image held symbolic weight far beyond any other the group could carry.
Bill Raden reports on the Assembly’s approval of overtime pay for California’s farm laborers, based on an eight-hour workday.
For the state’s first hundred-plus years, certain unspoken rules governed California politics. In a state where agriculture produced more wealth than any industry, the first rule was that growers held enormous power.
Consuelo Mendez was 23 when she arrived in the United States 45 years ago, looking for work. In Ventura County she found it, harvesting strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, parsley and spinach.
Sometimes the most interesting, and influential, figures in history are anything but household names. A case in point is Fred Ross, one of the greatest organizers of the 20th century.
(Yesterday David Bacon examined a decades-long labor war being fought by Gerawan Farming against the United Farm Workers — a union against which the company has been accused of orchestrating a decertification campaign. His reporting concludes today with a look at Gerawan’s political allies and the company’s attempt to overturn a key California labor law.)
As this fight unfolds, national anti-union organizations are moving in. The far-right Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence joined the appeals case. In recent years the Center has joined the Harris v. Quinn suit against the Service Employees International Union in Illinois, sued the California Labor Commissioner on behalf of employers, argued for Hobby Lobby stores against providing birth control for their employees, and supported the initiative to end affirmative action in Michigan.
Furthermore, the Center for Worker Freedom, headquartered in the Washington, D.C. offices of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR),
When hundreds of people marched to the Los Angeles City Council last October, urging it to pass a resolution supporting a farm worker union fight taking place in California’s San Joaquin Valley, few had ever heard the name of the company involved. That may not be the case much longer. Gerawan Farming, one of the country’s largest growers, with 5,000 people picking its grapes and peaches, is challenging the California law that makes farm workers’ union rights enforceable. Lining up behind Gerawan are national anti-union think tanks. What began as a local struggle by one grower family to avoid a union contract is getting bigger, and the stakes are getting much higher.
The Gerawan workers got the City Council’s support and, on February 10, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education passed a resolution that went beyond just an encouraging statement. The LAUSD purchases Gerawan’s Prima label fruit through suppliers for 1,270 schools and 907,000 students.
It’s been more than 50 years since Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta founded the United Farm Workers union. In the ensuing decades, broader activism and increased awareness of the importance of those who grow and harvest our food have resulted in better wages and living conditions for some workers in our state and others, in spite of public indifference. The farmworkers’ story of struggle and of battles won (and those yet to be fought) are told in Food Chains, an unsparing documentary that screened Sunday at Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena under the sponsorship of the nonprofit Food Chain Workers Alliance.
The film chronicles the exploitation and brutal poverty — and in some instances, forms of enslavement— that plague American agriculture. Food Chains is directed by Sanjay Rawal, produced by Rawal, Smriti Keshari and Hamilton Fish, narrated by Forest Whitaker, and executive-produced by actress Eva Longoria and activist/filmmaker Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation);
Activist Video Archive, that indispensable repository of Los Angeles’ progressive history, has recently released excerpts from an in-depth interview it conducted with Angela Sanbrano, a key figure in the Latino-rights movement. Sanbrano, who got her first reluctant taste of activism through the United Farm Workers union grape boycott, went on to co-found Inquilinos Unidos, was National Director of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and served as executive director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA).
Sanbrano would play a critical role in organizing 2006’s massive immigrant rights march in Los Angeles that protested the criminalization of undocumented immigrants. Today she serves as the executive director of the Mexican Network of Migrant Leaders and Organizations.
There haven’t been, to put it mildly, many films about America’s labor movement. Take away Salt of the Earth (1954) and Norma Rae (1979) and what are you left with? Cesar Chavez, then, offers to fill a cavernous void in the public’s knowledge about both union organizing and the history of the country’s mostly Latino agricultural workforce. Directed by the Mexican actor and film producer Diego Luna (Y Tu Mamá También, Elysium), the film follows Chavez (Michael Peña) from the time he parted company with the grassroots Community Service Organization (CSO) to the signing of union contracts with growers following a successful consumer boycott of table grapes.
Working with a screenplay by Keir Pearson, Luna wisely passes on a sweeping Gandhi-style treatment of Chavez’s entire life. This allows Luna and cinematographer Enrique Chediak to linger on the arid poetry of life in California’s Central Valley (played here by Sonora,
Activists, organizers and elected officials across the United States have come together to urge President Barack Obama to award posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the legendary organizer, Fred Ross Sr. The first to organize people through house meetings, a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and a pioneer in Latino voter outreach since 1949 when he helped elect Ed Roybal as Los Angeles’s first Latino council member, Ross’ influence on social change movements remains strong two decades after his death in 1992. If there were a Mount Rushmore for community organizers, Ross’s angular face would be on it. Here is a brief summary of Ross’s remarkable legacy, along with instructions on how to get your message of support to President Obama in time for the February 28 deadline.
Like all activists familiar with his work, I had a reverence for Fred Ross, Sr. before I knew the full record of his accomplishments.
’Tis the season of miracles. There’s only enough oil to light the lamp for a couple of days, but it stays lit for eight. A peasant’s vision upsets a bishop, especially when the peasant returns with roses. Darkness grows until the earth shifts and the light returns. A child born in a stable turns out to be a presence of God. A festival celebrates the principles that make the miracle of human community. A star moves across the sky guiding astrologers on a quest.
These ancient tales and festivals, developed around the miracles of light and life, create the season’s themes of hope and love and peace. There are unsung miracles as well — happening in our own time that you will never read about in the papers or see on the nightly news. These stories tell about people without power claiming their strength and about the lowest-wage workers achieving victories.