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.
After a wonderful picnic on the grounds of the Chavez Center, the group gathered in the Museum for introductions and to learn about La Paz. This was a diverse group, mostly Spanish speaking, from Catholic, United Methodist, Presbyterian churches, as well as youth and adults.
A beautiful prayer service was lead by Fr. Feliz at the memorial site where Cesar is buried. Pastor Toña Rios, UMC reflected, “This work of solidarity is a call from God. It is an experience and I think it is a way of sharing not only with those whom we know but many whom we do not know. This trip is an opportunity to know each other as family, as children of the same God.” She closed with a challenge for the day that it began the struggle in solidarity, not only with farm workers, but with all immigrants.
Next the delegation headed to Arvin, CA to continue to share and pray in preparation for meeting with Giumarra workers. Fr. Michael McAndrew, Director of Migrant Ministry for the Diocese of Fresno spoke to the group about his work in the region.
Before introducing farm worker, Marcelina Rodriguez, United Farm Worker representative, Roman Pinal shared, “The need for organizing for a union is strong for Marcelina because in her first years at Giumarra, the company practice was to demand free work and free labor so she had to work 3 months before she would be placed on the payroll. That is why we thank you for supporting us as we continue organizing. It is very hard work but that is what she does to feed her family.”
Another farm worker, Flavio spoke, “We are pressured and mistreated and since 2005 it has gotten worse. When the harvest is at its height it is very hot and the work pressure continues. You are still expected to produce so many boxes and if you don’t you are placed on ‘time out’; it is very humiliating.”
“We work very hard, six days a week and sometimes they call us to work but don’t use us until they are ready and we are not paid for those hours,” says Crispin, another farm worker.
The supporters brought out the tamales, orchata, and sandwiches to share and then we headed back to Los Angeles.
The supporters were truly touched, and talked about how they will never forget the stories, the faces, and the passion the workers have in their struggle for organizing for union representation. The workers want dignity, respect, security and just wages and; for these they are willing to risk even their jobs.
For a Spanish Report, CLICK HERE