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.