Farm workers are marching to Sacramento. Join them virtually by signing their petition TODAY.
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. 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.
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. 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. She 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. 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.
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.
Do you live in CA and want to join the march? To find the schedule of locations go to: http://action.ufw.org/page/s/march811
Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Now March Update by Diana Tellefson Torres, UFW Foundation Executive Director
This Tuesday, I had the privilege of joining the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers March for over 15 miles from Madera to Le Grande with Arturo Rodriguez, UFW President, farm workers and volunteer supporters. As we started our trek, I was excited to get to know the other marchers. Odilia, a Oaxacan farm worker, explained that she was tired of the poor treatment that farm workers endured and that’s why she wanted to march the whole way to Sacramento.
Along the way, one of the van drivers asked Odilia’s husband and me whether we wanted to put our backpacks in the van. We both responded no. He turned to me and said, “This is nothing compared to the heavy sacks of fruit we have to carry every day.” I nodded and started to imagine how many farm workers were out in the heat that day carrying those sacks.
Pedro, a farm worker from Porterville, is familiar with the back and shoulder pain caused by the heavy sacks of oranges he carried while climbing up and down ladders for many years. He is one of the most positive people with a smile that just warms your soul. Pedro was marching although he had a knee injury, but he took small breaks to rest his knee by going inside the van that was following us. At a little before 4pm, we stopped at the edge of a pistachio farm so the marchers could take a break from the unforgiving sun. We found shade under a tree and munched on fresh watermelon and cantaloupe to replenish some of the calories we’d lost. Pedro came up to me as I found a little patch of grass to sit on. With a gentle voice, he asked me if my feet were hurting. I replied that they felt tired, but that we did not have too much longer to go. “Would you like me to massage your feet?” Pedro asked genuinely with concern. He must have noticed my exhaustion, as I was trying to hide the fact that my feet were throbbing. Moved by his kindness, I felt a lump in my throat—luckily I had my sunglasses on so he couldn’t see my eyes tearing up.
Then there is Adan, a farm worker in his 80s who has been an active member for decades. Amazingly, he marched with cowboy boots! Throughout the march, I kept asking him whether he felt well as he was marching in front of me most of the way. He would respond, “I’m fine”. “But your boots must not be very comfortable,” I suggested the first time I asked him. “These are more comfortable than the tennis shoes you’re wearing. I’ve worn boots for many decades,” he answered. His stamina was surreal and for most of the second half of the march my eyes were mesmerized by his long, thin legs that moved at a swift pace like those of a gazelle.
The last hour of the march that day felt extremely long, but honestly, watching Adan in front of me kept me trucking along. Although my backpack felt light when I was asked to set it down, towards the end of the march, it felt like a ton of bricks. My shoulders were aching and I asked the van volunteers to take my backpack. I was lucky that someone was there to help alleviate my burden—if only every farm worker could have the same relief.
Social justice takes discipline and determination. And for me, the third element is inspiration. Every marcher and volunteer along that 20 mile stretch inspired me—from Daniel, a college student from Minnesota who worked through the summer to raise money to come out to help the UFW, to Ruth Martinez, our official nurse who broke her ankle accidentally yesterday and made the doctor at the hospital laugh because she insisted that she needed to get back out to the march. Like all of the marchers and volunteers contributing to the march, Ruth knows that this is no laughing matter—this is about human dignity!
Que Vivan Los Campesinos!