This article was submitted by Suzanne Darweesh, Co-chair of the Orange County Interfaith Committee to Aid Farm Workers (OCIC). The National Farm Worker Ministry congratulates OCIC on their 50th anniversary! And we applaud the many people in the OCIC who over those years have advocated for farm worker justice with persistence and passion.
On March 7, 2015, one hundred twenty-five farm worker supporters and friends celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Orange County Interfaith Committee to Aid Farm Workers. Founded by the late Nat and Rusty Kennedy with assistance from the Rev. Chris Hartmire, the late Jean Giordano and Frank Forbath, this committee is the oldest farm labor support group in the nation. Rusty Kennedy spoke about his parents by video. Frank Forbath also remembered the early days of the movement. Chris Hartmire discussed some of the difficult times during boycotts, strikes, and attacks by the growers and the courage of farm workers and church members in standing firm for human rights.
Keynote speaker Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers, spoke about the need for immigration reform which might affect 700,000 undocumented farm workers in California. He also lamented the long-term inability of Fresno area Gerawan Farms, the largest tree fruit grower in the country, to negotiate in good faith with its workers. Employing at times five thousand workers in its orchards, it has yet to sign a contract and abide by it since the time of Cesar Chavez. There will be a march to the Long Beach City Hall at 4pm on March 24 where a resolution in support of the Gerawan workers is expected to pass. Before answering questions from the floor, Mr. Rodriguez discussed the Equitable Food Initiative which is bringing about better working conditions for farm labor as well as better quality produce for the grower and markets.
Jean and Frank Forbath were recognized for their long-time service for farm workers, hosting them in their home, leafleting, advocating in their behalf, performing the duties of treasurer, and much more. Our local Congresswoman, Loretta Sanchez, stopped by and spoke to attendees prior to the event and our former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk Silva and her husband, Jesus Silva, stayed for the evening. She’s running again for her old seat.
It was a great evening complete with dinner served by Pam and Winston Presnall, music led by Bill Steiner, whose mother used to help the Giordanos provide dinner-fundraisers, and a silent auction managed by Tina Laine and Van Ryujin!