NFWM California visits Giumarra fields to share shade and hope

Giumarra shade example_0.jpg A Giumarra worker points out what his foreman usually provides him for shade: one tattered black tarp draped over a few vine rows, underneath which, he says, “it’s actually hotter.”
On Thursday, May 13th, supporters from several congregations in Los Angeles went with pastors from several Bakersfield churches to participate in an action to express their support for the workers at Giumarra Vineyards who are organizing to win a UFW contract. Even after 2 farm workers have died in their fields of heat stroke, Giumarra continues to put their workers at risk by not complying with the heat regulations in California. Just before the start of the intense heat of the Central Valley, the supporters and pastors delivered “shade” to workers in one of Giumarra’s crews to symbolize what workers should be receiving from the company. Radio Campesina provided food and during their lunch break the workers were able to interact with this group of supporters. Pastor Victor Perez said a blessing on the canopies of shade that were delivered and on the workers and their labor, with prayers that no worker might suffer from heat stroke or die in the fields of California this year.
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Pastor Jesse Muñoz, from Believers in Jesus Foursquare Church in Bakersfield, said afterwards, “To me it was a very special experience…it’s been awhile since I had come to a place like that. Looking at the workers in between the vines, resting. They would not approach us at first because they feared losing their jobs because there are people who are there who want to support them who aren’t from the company. But my heart is very grateful because I feel as a pastor that we should be there giving the people hope, and I think today we gave them a little hope.”
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Farm Worker Supporters Strong Presence at Reynold’s Shareholders Meeting

mat 7 march.jpgSupporters of human rights and justice joined the National Farm Worker Ministry and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Friday May 7, 2010 where Reynolds Tobacco held its annual shareholders meeting.

More than 30 farm worker supporters gained access to the meeting by purchasing a share of the company’s stock or by representing someone, through a proxy, who owned one. These included several NFWM staff and Youth and Young Adult Network (YAYA) members from Florida.

nfwm banner.jpgThose inside used the question and answer period to create a dominating presence inside the meeting, giving voice to the real human rights situation for tobacco farm workers in the fields of North Carolina. At the conclusion of the meeting, Rev. Carlton Eversley, President of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem led the group out singing a civil-rights spiritual.

May 1st Immigrant, Civil & Human Rights Rally in St. Louis

rally crowd.jpgOn May 1st, over 2,000 people marched and rallied in St. Louis, MO calling for immigrant, human, and civil rights, with the message, “Because we believe, we act for immigration rights.” The National Farm Worker Ministry and other local organizations teamed with the United Methodist Women (UMW) to organize the event. The UMW were in St. Louis for their Quadrennial Assembly.

The march/rally, planned months ago, was especially compelling because of the passage of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law the week before. UMC Bishop Minerva Carcaño, whose area includes Arizona, was the rally’s main speaker. She called the Arizona law “unwise, short sighted and mean spirited.”

24 Hour Fast Held in Los Angeles in Solidarity with Giumarra Workers

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About 75 farm worker supporters gathered throughout the night and day on Friday, April 23rd to show their support for the struggle of farm workers at Giumarra Vineyards to improve their conditions and work to win a union contract with the United Farm Workers. Following the example of Cesar Chavez on the anniversary of his passing, many people fasted for 24 hours reflecting on their connection to farm workers and the sacrifice many farm workers make in their struggle for better conditions, dignity, and respect.

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(From Left: NFWM Staff Christy Lafferty and Lucy Boutte, and farm worker supporters Suzanne Darweesh and Dan Parziale)

Dan Parziale, a supporter in Los Angeles, reflected that, “the 24 Hour Fast was a beautiful beginning to the Giumarra campaign and was representative of the power of our movement. Farm workers joined with organizers, religious leaders, and veteran supporters of the fight for better work conditions, as wellas new participants in that struggle. In addition, there were hundreds of people who signed up for the fast online and we felt the power of those people too. Our fast, in some way, connected with all of the fasts that have been done throughout history in order to raise the public’s awareness of an injustice. Our fast reminded us of the struggle that the workers in the fields experience each day when their rights are not upheld. We prayed for justice and for those people who work each day to ensure a better future for farm workers. We prayed for those companies like Giumarra that currently do not see the value in upholding human rights and we prayed for the workers who suffer as a result. Chants, poetry, songs, and prayers rose together as a powerful statement of our refusal to accept the treatment of many of our brothers in the sisters in the field.”

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(Fr. Richard Estrada says a blessing on two Giumarra workers, Maria Cervantes and Ester Corona, during a prayer vigil at the Fast.)

Suzanne Darweesh, current President of the Orange County Interfaith Committee to Aid Farm Workers, was present to provide support as well. “After an hour or two, my back was hurting and I wanted to sit down…but then I started thinking about the hard lives of farm workers, stooping over in the hot sun, often working without water or lunch breaks, or rest rooms, with little or no opportunity to protest their working conditions lest they lose their jobs, and I was ashamed of my minor complaints. I thought about the farm workers who died while picking food for the rest of us and I hoped that this demonstration/vigil might prompt more people to think about these conditions and vow to do something about them.”

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