Advocacy & Activism, Cesar Chavez, UFW

The Fight Continues: Farm Workers Walk Asking Better Working Conditions

From BWNews.us, Mayra Barrios, Bilingual Weekly, 4 Sept 2011.

San Joaquin Valley CA — In 1962 Carolina Holguin marched along the leader Cesar Chavez through the streets of San Joaquin County. Every step of a long journey was to demand better working conditions for farm workers. Today, 30-years later, Holguin steps` are slower but move with the same objective towards the State’s Capitol in Sacramento.

Along with Holguin and the United Farm Workers (UFW) are many others walking in a 13-day march which they intent to use to illustrate their widening frustration and the frustration of many farm workers towards laws in California. The march started in Madera, its journey includes many stops but on Monday, August, 29th their steps reached Stockton, CA.

The 200 mile walk comes with a call for a basic worker`s right —paid overtime after eight hours. They are asking Governor Jerry Brown to sign a revised “Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.” Specifically, the march is looking for a signature on Assembly Bill (AB) 1313 as it relates to employment: agricultural workers. On June 28, 2011 Brown Vetoed AB 104 a bill with a similar request.

At her 80-years of age Holguin spent many years of her life working in the fields of Delano. “I worked in everything from cotton, beets, onions, tomatoes and grapes,” she shared her firsthand experiences on how difficult these jobs are and she highlighted on the tough job conditions she and her friends lived.

As the march gets closer to Sacramento, Holguin reminiscent, “today as before we were fighting for the same cause.” However, “before we had to sleep in parks, and we struggled to find enough food, now we have plenty of food for everyone,” she shared. Although Chavez achieved to get better conditions for workers “this fight has never ended.”

While in Stockton, Jose Rodriguez, president of the Council for the Spanish Speaking, joined the march as they spent a moment of silence in front of the San Joaquin County Court House in memory of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. A 17-year old grape worker who died in 2008 in Lodi, CA after a labor contractor violated California’s heat regulation.

“We are looking to implement a law to protect us,” said Doroteo Jimenez, uncle of the late Vasquez, “Yes! There are bathrooms and water and shade but we do not know if people have the opportunity to go or not, sometimes the supervisors don’t allow them to.” Jimenez hopes, “this struggle is for the people to lose the fear and really talk about what is happening,” said Jimenez, while carrying a picture of his niece.

According to the United Farm Workers what the law states is not always follow in the fields. California has more than 35,000 farms and is estimated that there are fewer than 200 inspectors to check for violations. “What we do not see is that workers often cannot drink water, they cannot use the shades, most of the tools are just a show,” said Armando Elenes, UFW National Vice President. “If they go to drink water they fall behind and if you [a farm worker] fall behind you are out,” Elenes explained, “they don’t tell you ‘you are fired because you went to drink water’ — you are fired because you fall behind on the work.”

“We are only asking Jerry Brown to give us the tools and weapons to defend ourselves,” said Elenes.

Source: BWNews.us, “The Fight Continues: Farm workers walk asking better working conditions” by Mayra Barrios, Bilingual Weekly, 4 Sept 2011.

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