Advocacy & Activism, Legislation, UFW

Farm Workers are Marching to Sacramento

From IndyBay.org, Dan Bacher, 25 Aug 2011.

Courtesy of United Farm Workers Union.
Courtesy of United Farm Workers Union.

Farm workers just started a 13 day, 200 mile march to Sacramento. Their goal?

“To press for enactment of the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act and the right to be paid overtime after 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week just like any other worker,” according to a statement from the United Farm Workers Union (UFW).

The two bills are expected to be introduced in the legislature shortly. The Fair Treatment For Farm Workers Now march will end on Sept. 4th, Labor Day weekend, at the State Capitol. If you’re in California, please consider joining workers for one of the days of the march.

If you can’t join the march in person, please join virtually by signing the petition: http://action.ufw.org/page/s/200milemarch.

Two months ago, Gov Brown vetoed the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act, a bill that would have made it easier for farm workers to join a union and speak up for their rights. More than 1,000 farm workers visited the Capitol during the 12 days Governor Brown deliberated on the bill. Risking their jobs to attend, they held vigils, fasted and rallied for change.

“They told the Governor how the laws in the books are not the laws in the fields,” according to the UFW. “They talked about having no bathroom breaks, no overtime pay, no respect and the lack of enforcement of heat regulations. And they were right– two more workers may have died of heat related illness this year alone.”

Farm workers can’t afford to wait any more, not when their lives are at risk. So they are using their marching feet to try and convince Gov. Jerry Brown to sign their new bills when they reach his desk.

One of these workers is Maria Escutia, who has toiled in the table grapes for more than a decade. She is marching all 13 days. Her reason?

“I am doing this because I am very upset,” stated Escutia. “I believe we work in dangerous conditions, in the heat, in the cold and I believe we deserve to be treated better without being intimidated at work; we deserve the right to have benefits. We deserve this and more.”

In Governor Brown’s veto of the “Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act,” he says he is “not yet convinced.” For farm workers, “not yet” means farm workers don’t get water and shade. “Not yet” means farm workers continue to die of heat illness.

“Not yet” means farm workers do not have basic justice implemented by the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. “Not yet” means hundreds of farm workers who last year voted for union representation have waited more than a year for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to take the simple act of certifying the elections.

Aaying the time to act is now, farm workers will begin a 200 mile pilgrimage up the Central Valley to Sacramento to press for enactment of the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.

Odilia Chavez, a field worker who gets work where she can in various crops, is planning on marching all 13 days.

“I am going to march from Madera to Sacramento because of the bad conditions we farm workers work in,” she stated. “The farmers and farm labor contractors put a lot of pressure on us, they don’t respect us, we are paid very poorly and it is not enough to make ends meet. We are going to Sacramento to tell Governor Jerry Brown that it is time for him to sign what we are asking.”

There will be up to 50 full time marchers who will be joined by farm workers and community folks throughout the route and by thousands of farm workers when they arrive in Sacramento. To do a march of this size will cost close to $250,000.

“Between meals, water & ice alone we are talking about $31 per marcher per day or $403 per marcher for 13 days or $20,150 just for the full time marchers. Farm workers from up and down the state will want to join in on the weekends when they can get off work. On the last day we will need to rent buses for the thousands of workers who plan to attend,” the organization stated.

“Enough with ‘not yet.’ The time is now. Join the virtual march by signing the petition to get Maria and other farm workers the fair treatment they deserve,” the UFW concluded. Go to: http://action.ufw.org/page/s/200milemarch

Source: IndyBay.org, “Farm Workers are Marching to Sacramento” by Dan Bacher, 25 Aug 2011.

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