NFWM Board member, Bro. Mark Schroeder (left), led a group in prayer outside of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office on Tuesday, July 20th as they hand-delivered a bill that would require overtime pay equity for farm workers. Schwarzenegger has 12 days from Tuesday to sign or veto the bill. Also pictured are United Farm Workers President, Arturo Rodriguez (left) and the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter)(center).
Click HERE for a Sacramento Bee article, The Buzz: Farmworkers deliver overtime bill to Schwarzenegger’s office.
A group from Los Angeles and a group of pastors from Bakersfield traveled to the fields to visit with Giumarra workers.
Students of the Charismatic Renovation of the Pastoral Region of San Gabriel celebrate the Memorial mass in the Cathedral. Several students participated in the mass as eurchristic ministers, ushers, and in the procession. After the mass the students helped with postcards supporting Immigration Reform.
Virginia Nesmith, Executive Director of NFWM, was among the participants at the First International Global Agricultural Industry and Waged Agricultural Workers Conference, held at the National Chavez Center, Villa La Paz, in California. The event, sponsored by the United Farm Workers of America, Oxfam America and Oxfam Nobid, included representatives of farm worker organizations from South Africa, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines as well as Oxfam colleagues from Morocco, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
During the three day meeting, participants shared information about farm worker conditions and the work they are doing in their respective countries; drew a “wall” of key moments in their history; heard reports on the globalization of the food industry and discussed approaches to organizing; visited workers in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley and in their homes, and began to identify areas of potential collaboration. The similarity in oppressive conditions and challenges from continent to continent was remarkable, as was the passion to overcome them. Everyone left convinced that just as agribusiness and the food retail industry are global in scope, it was critical that farm worker representatives begin to communicate and collaborate on a global level. The conference planted the seeds for that work, as we opened the door to the future with new knowledge, energy and hope.
NFWM-California staff, Lucy Boutte organized and hosted 69 farm worker supporters to travel to the Central Valley on June 12th to visit with the National Cesar E. Chavez Center in La Paz and meet with Giumarra workers. The supporters came from 14 churches from Los Angeles County as well as a group of high school students on an immersion trip from St. Ignatius Prep High School, San Francisco. The purpose of the trip was so supporters could meet some of the farm workers they have been supporting for the past year through writing campaigns to the Governor, fasts & vigils.
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.
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.”
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.
(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.”
(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.”
NFWM Staff member reflects on her time supporting the UFW organizing effort in the San Joaquin Valley
UFW Organizing team and a current worker leader at Giumarra Vineyards
Christy Lafferty, NFWM California staff member, spent 6 weeks in the area of Bakersfield and Delano, CA in the San Joaquin Valley during September and October this year. She worked alongside the UFW organizing team and worker leaders there as they worked on the current campaign at Giumarra Vineyards. After this unique opportunity to directly experience the successes and challenges in organizing farm workers, she wrote this reflection that you can download and read by clicking HERE. Here is an excerpt from Christy’s reflection:
“When you shake a farm worker’s hand, you will feel the results of years of hard physical labor. But you will see in his or her eyes a humility and a gentle strength and ability to still hope for the day when they will receive the respect and just compensation for the work they do to feed their families. And that hope remains most when they join together and grows even stronger when they know that they have allies in the people who buy the fruits and vegetables they pick.”
Here at National Farm Worker Ministry, we were dismayed to learn about the inhumane behavior of Giumarra–the world’s largest table grape company, who uses the Nature’s Partner label. Giumarra/Nature’s Partner has been using outrageous tactics, like forcing workers to race against other workers in temperatures over 100 degrees to avoid being suspended. Then as people expressed their outrage, via email to the company, Giumarra/Nature’s Partner blocked farm worker supporters from their e-mail communications system. Please join National Farm Worker Ministry in standing up against Giumarra’s intimidating and bullying behavior by signing the UFW petition today!Help the farm workers reach 25,000 signatures by the end of the month!
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.
Fifteen farm workers have died heat-related deaths since 2004. The law requires… water – shade – rest breaks – training. But the laws on the books are NOT the laws in the fields.
HELP US TO HONOR THE LIVES OF THESE 15 FARM WORKERS AND SPEAK OUT FOR JUSTICE.
WHAT: Interfaith Vigil and Action
WHEN: Tuesday, JULY 28TH 12:00pm
WHERE: Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market
On Olympic Blvd., one block west of Alameda St.
(corner of Olympic and McGarry St.)
For more information,please contact:(323) 893-9605