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Orange County Interfaith Committee to Aid Farmworkers

The party people

Founded by the late Nat and Rusty Kennedy with assistance from Reverend Chris Hartmire, the first Executive Director of NFWM; the late Jean Giordano; and Frank Forbath, the Orange County Interfaith Committee to Aid Farmworkers (OCIC) is the oldest farm labor support group in the nation.

“Jean [Giordano] would host fundraisers twice a year at her home in Laguna Beach. Roy would put a roast on the spit and she got friends to help with the rest of the meal. Grace Steiner always made the salad – she is on the committee now. Cesar used to stay in their house overnight and bring farm workers with him,” remembers Suzanne Darweesh, Chair of OCIC. “The goal was not just to raise money, but to educate people about farm workers. She would have 100 people in her backyard!”

Jean was the first Chair of OCIC and is warmly remembered for her commitment to the farm workers – and her famous backyard cookouts. Suzanne took over years later when Jean moved away, “Oh, I can’t remember what year. It was so long ago,” she says. That tells you just how far back Suzanne’s commitment to the movement goes. 

“When I became chair of the Orange County committee, I was put on the NFWM board and was invited to board meetings. Each one has been so inspirational and motivational. They invite people to educate us about the condition of farm workers around the country. FLOC would be there or someone from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers would be there. UFW people sometimes came to speak. I always got so recharged and so motivated by the speakers,” reflected Suzanne.

OCIC functions as both an advocacy and fundraising organization. They host two fundraisers per year – one for NFWM and one for United Farm Workers. Each fundraiser has an educational component to ensure that the attendees learn about and understand the movement.

OCIC is also actively involved in advocacy efforts, working closely with NFWM and UFW to use their voice and power to write letters, contact legislators, and attend rallies and marches.

One example was OCIC’s work in support of legislation before the California General Assembly to support overtime pay for farm workers. A local assemblyman abstained from the vote, but his vote was needed to pass the bill, Suzanne remembered. OCIC arranged for farm workers to visit his office, circulated petitions for his constituents to sign, and even organized a rally in front of his office. She couldn’t remember whether he changed his vote, but “it attracted a lot of attention for the farm workers.”

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