Advocacy & Activism, Economy & Market Forces, Opinion/Editorial/Commentary, UFW, Wages

Letter/Opinion: Poor Conditions Reflect on City

From TheCalifornian.com, The Salinas Californian, “Poor conditions reflect on city” by Jerry Kay, 29 Mar 2011.

Thank you for your retrospective on the 1970 Salinas lettuce strike. One thing not covered is the great cost to communities by keeping farm-labor wages so low.

I had some experience with this, having graduated UCLA, then coming to Salinas in 1971 to work in the fields to be part of the UFW’s movement to better the conditions of the workers. Within a year, the workers on my crew elected me their union representative. By late 1972, I became the Salinas Valley UFW field office director.

At that time, a Salinas businessman asked me to speak to his Rotary Club. I told the members how the UFW meant a better life for them. With better wages and working conditions and a union hiring hall, I saw our members put down roots and keep their kids in school. This meant looking for homes to purchase and to furnish, new cars, better clothes, paying taxes and becoming stable citizens of their neighborhoods.

Who would ultimately benefit? The local businesses. What good is it to keep wages so low for so many? At that time, we also did not have the gang warfare. The youth, aligned with their parents, saw the UFW as a way to channel their energy to escape poverty and unite them in a more important cause.

When I visit Salinas today, what I see is not just the poor conditions for farm workers. I see the poor conditions of a community that still believes there is some benefit to keeping a large part of its work force impoverished and without power.

We all lose.

Jerry Kay

Santa Cruz

Read at: TheCalifornian.com, The Salinas Californian, “Poor conditions reflect on city” by Jerry Kay, 29 Mar 2011.

See original article post at: 40 Years Later: Salinas Valley Labor Clashes Still Resonate

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