Union Organizers Fired at Pasco, Washington Dairy

By John Munson, Director Oregon Farm Worker Ministry large_Workers_of_Ruby_Ridge_Dairy_021_0.jpg

Two workers active in an effort to form a union were fired over the weekend (August 15 – 16) by Ruby Ridge Dairy owners Dick and Ruby Bengen in Pasco, Washington. Four workers who had circulated pro-union pledge cards were fired in the last few weeks.

Workers report a climate of fear at the dairy, which employs some forty people. They also report that they received less than the wages to which they were entitled, that they were required to work long hours without rest or lunch breaks, were not allowed sick leave with or without pay, and that they were required to use machinery without proper instruction or protection. Bengen, who is vocal in his opposition to the union and who has stated that a union would “take the fun away from diary farming” alleges that the workers were fired for cause.

Several former workers from the dairy have filed a complaint against Ruby Ridge in the Superior Court of Franklin County, Washington.

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NFWM Board in North Carolina to Support Tobacco Farm Workers

water pouring cropped.jpgOn Friday August 7th, the Board and Staff of the National Farm Worker Ministry were joined by NFWM supporters and clergy from North Carolina for a day of activities in support of farm workers who toil in tobacco fields, inclulding a moving service held at a tobacco field honoring the sacrifices of farm workers.

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Farm Worker Heat Deaths in California Highlighted in Interfaith Vigil

On Tuesday, July 28th, about 200 farm worker supporters, including members of clergy from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions gathered at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market to raise awareness about the 15 heat-related deaths in the fields of California since 2004. The vigil was held on the 5-year anniversary of the death of Asuncion Valdivia, the first of the fifteen to pass away who died while he was picking grapes for Guimarra Vineyards. Virginia Nesmith, NFWM director, welcomed the crowd to the vigil, sponsored by NFWM and the UFW. Arturo Rodriguez, UFW spoke as well as farm workers, clergy and several politicians.

Two days later, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) affiliates of Southern California and San Diego and Imperial Counties, and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, filed a landmark lawsuit against the state and its Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) for failing to live up to their constitutional and statutory duties to protect the safety of farm workers. Click here for more information.

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