California Farm Workers March for Fair Treatment


Written by Mimi Seldner, a Ms. Magazine blogger

Despite the heat of a California August, farmworkers embarked today, Aug. 23, on a 167-mile march from Madera, Calif., to the state capitol, Sacramento. The marchers, who should arrive at their destination on September 4 (during Labor Day weekend), hope to draw attention to SB 104–the  Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act–which was recently vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The act would have made it easier for farm workers to join unions thanks to a “card check” registration system.  Farmworker Mauricia Calvillo explains that, “With SB 104, we farm workers would have the freedom to fill out union representation cards in the privacy of our homes, outside the presence of owners,  bosses and  field foremen.

The United Farm Workers of America union (UFW), which has organized the march, has had a rich past under such famed leaders as Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Its victories include:

  • the first genuine collective bargaining agreement between farm workers and growers in the history of the continental United States
  • the first union contracts requiring rest periods, toilets in the fields, clean drinking water, hand-washing facilities, protective clothing against pesticide exposure, banning pesticide straying while workers are in the fields,
  • outlawing DDT and other dangerous pesticides, and extending unemployment, disability, and worker’s compensation benefits to farm workers.

Injustice still exists, however; for example, farmworkers are some of the few hourly workers in the U.S. who are not paid overtime. Also, some growers ignore the state’s heat, water, and shade regulations. According to a UFW press release, at least 16 California farmworkers suffered heath-related deaths in the past six years. Moreover, only a small percentage of the 400,000 farmworkers in the state are unionized–hence the movement to make joining a union easier.

In vetoing the bill, Gov. Brown said he was “not yet convinced” that it was necessary; marchers will try to convince him otherwise. You can join the Labor Day action in spirit by sending a letter to Gov.Brown demanding equal treatment for farm workers in California, and by extension, for all workers everywhere.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine and is republished with permission.

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Hundreds Tell Hershey’s To Stop Making Child Labor Chocolate

Photo from national museum of american history via flickr creative commons


Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

I really hope they get what they are fighting for and deserve.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

And they ought to be given them!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

Brown's not 'convinced' many deaths from horrible conditions does it take for this man to be convinced. And truly, who's going to lose in this? If we treat our laborers fairly, we ALL win...even those ignorant farmers who think squeezing the last iota out of a worker's life blood, will win - though he/it hardly deserves it. I've lived in Yuma, AZ, and watched those people working in conditions you wouldn't believe! Since then, I often think of them in those blistering fields and many times remember how that head of lettuce, or those melons got to the shelves.

My blessings sent to these marchers and I certainly hope they'll be able to 'convince' these people sitting in air-conditioned offices and shopping for their produce in air-conditioned supermarkets!

Kathryn B.
Kathryn B6 years ago

End the suffering....grow your own! Big agri will NEVER go for banning pesticides. Most of us here can grow an entire garden in a small space or even a greenhouse tent. The more self-sufficient we become, the less power these corporate thugs will have on us. I have total empathy for the farmworkers, however, most Americans are suffering because of unemployment, rocketing food costs and hardly enough money to go around. Start a community, organic garden co-op and share the bounty with your neighbors. Get involved in your community and reach out to help each other.

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

think the abused farm workers will fight for animal rights, and be vegan then vegan "missionaries".
if not, what is wrong with them? to know pain and ignore another's? shameful.

should I feel worse eating food they sufferd and tended to, or feel worse if I killed and ate a wild animal?

Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago

Republicans don't want to do ANYTHING to help these people. Vote the Republicans out of office in the next election in your state.

John Gregory
John Gregory6 years ago

I too believe farm workers need something to ameliorate their working conditions. The kids suffer the most having to keep grades up and work to support their families - beginning and ending at all hours depending on the work load. Unfortunately American's are not prepared to pay $5 for a tomato or $7 for a melon, etc., and that will merely cause imports to increase and workers will be out of jobs. Many independent farmers barely make a living themselves let alone able to pay much more than they do. Yes - I also believe in E-Verify - why it's being fought so ardently is beyond understanding. Taxes need to be paid by these workers - or at least submitted - since many don't make enough to pay taxes in the first place. Counting them and their children will also show a truer Census which benefits those in that constituency. Anchor babies need to be identified and returned to their country of origin unless they've gained access to the US in a legal manner. The reports of women having contractions racing across the border into the United States - some giving birth on the side of the road or in parking lots and gas stations - is awful. I'm not being cruel - but it can be determined when a woman concieved and while it's one thing to desire good care for your baby - it's another to use such means to bring an entire and extended family en group if only to partake of benefits and not pay taxes or otherwise seek gainful employment or education to add something to the Society one is depend

Laurie D.
Laurie D6 years ago

There is ALWAYS a controversy between the rights of the worker and the illegal status of the worker. Certainly we want fair wages for our workers but we don't want to continue to encourage the illegal alien influx. Added to that we have to consider most AMERICAN workers don't want to work on a farm! Quite a dilema, California!

Valarie S.
Valarie Snell6 years ago

good article