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!