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Farm Workers

Supreme Court limits California Union Recruiting In Favor Of Property Rights

In a blow to labor, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a decades-old California rule inspired by César Chávez that allowed union organizers to meet with farmworkers at their place of work. Commercial growers applauded the conservative court’s ruling to uphold property rights while union representatives vowed not to be deterred. Two agricultural producers filed suit after organizers with the United Farm Workers sought to access their property to speak with farmworkers. The plaintiffs in Cedar Point Nursery v Hassid, Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company, argued the California regulation requiring them to provide access up to three hours a day, 120 days a year was unconstitutional and unnecessary.

Days After Election, Trump Freezes Wages Of Farm Laborers

Just days after U.S. voters went to the polls to help deny President Donald Trump another four years in the White House, the Trump administration issued a little-noticed rule freezing the wages of farm laborers working under H-2A visas, a move that could severely harm low-wage guest workers who have already been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The rule (pdf), published in the Federal Register by the Department of Labor on November 5, will "help corporate interests deny pay hikes to frontline farmworkers who help maintain America's food supply," The Daily Poster's Julia Rock reported Monday.

Reckoning With Labor Law’s Racist Roots

The maintenance of the racist Southern plantation system was the driving force behind the “compromise” struck by President Roosevelt and the Southern Democrats to exclude agricultural laborers from labor protections. In congressional debates this was clearly articulated. Representative Wilcox of Florida extolled, “You cannot put the Negro and the white man on the same basis and get away with it…” and Representative Cox of Georgia agreed, saying that it would be “dangerous beyond conception” to eliminate racial and social distinctions. Bargaining away racial equality, President Roosevelt and his coalition excluded agriculture from the FLSA.  There have been legal challenges to the agricultural exemption in the past but the exclusion has never been attacked squarely as unconstitutional because it was racially motivated. The Martinez-Cuevas case will be the first to squarely present this question before a court.

Work In The Time Of COVID-19

In two weeks, my partner and I were supposed to leave San Francisco for Reno, Nevada, where we’d be spending the next three months focused on the 2020 presidential election. As we did in 2018, we’d be working with UNITE-HERE, the hospitality industry union, only this time on the campaign to drive Donald Trump from office. Now, however, we’re not so sure we ought to go. According to information prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Nevada is among the states in the “red zone” when it comes to both confirmed cases of, and positive tests for, Covid-19. I’m 68.

As COVID-19 Surges, Farmworkers Are Paying A High Price

Every day, California farmworkers worry that the pandemic plowing through agricultural hubs will catch them and kill them. They also worry that not working will kill them. The collapse of food service demands when most businesses and institutions shut down has cut farm jobs statewide by 20 percent, or 100,000. Many farmworkers who are still working have had their hours or days reduced, sometimes without warning. Lockdowns have also cost workers second jobs they needed to make ends meet. They are juggling bills and going hungry. These are some of the findings in a new survey of 900 farmworkers in 21 farm counties, released on Tuesday. The survey was coordinated by the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS), with a wide group of researchers, farmworker organizations and policy advocates. The Covid-19 Farmworker Study (COFS) reinforces the dire warnings that farmworker advocacy organizations made when the coronavirus lockdowns began: The least protected essential workers in the country

Farmworkers Are Walking Out To Protest Conditions During COVID-19 Pandemic

Yakima, Washington - Workers at Columbia Reach Pack and Hansen Fruit and Cold Storage Co. in Yakima walked out Thursday morning to protest their working conditions. They held signs asking employers for better COVID-19 safety measures, 6 feet of social distancing in the workplace, and protection from retaliation for protesting. They also want Columbia Reach to provide a hazard pay increase of $2 an hour. Thursday’s strikes are the sixth and seventh in Yakima County since Monday, with workers calling for paid sick leave, hazard pay, safer working conditions and protection from retaliation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since May 7, workers also have walked out of Frosty Packing and Roche Fruit in Yakima, Matson Fruit Co. and Monson Fruit Co. in Selah, and Allan Bros. in Naches

COVID19 Threatens Seasonal Farmworkers At The Heart Of The Food Supply

Many Americans may find bare grocery store shelves the most worrying sign of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their food system. But, for the most part, shortages of shelf-stable items like pasta, canned beans and peanut butter are temporary because the U.S. continues to produce enough food to meet demand – even if it sometimes takes a day or two to catch up. To keep up that pace, the food system depends on several million seasonal agricultural workers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants from Mexico and other countries. These laborers pick grapes in California, tend dairy cows in Wisconsin and rake blueberries in Maine. As a sociologist who studies agricultural issues, including farm labor, I believe that these workers face particular risks during the current pandemic that, if unaddressed, threaten keeping those grocery store shelves well stocked.

Heat Wave Safety: 130 Groups Call For Protections For Farm, Construction Workers

Parts of the country are expecting another round of searing, potentially record-shattering heat in the coming days, and many farm and construction workers will be out in it—with no federal heat stress standards directing their employers to offer them water, rest or shade. Despite recommendations going back more than 40 years, the federal government has repeatedly failed to set a heat stress standard for American workers.  On Tuesday, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, along with United Farm Workers Foundation and Farmworker Justice, joined more than 130 public health and environmental groups in submitting a petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration calling for the agency to require employers to protect their workers from heat by imposing mandatory rest breaks, hydration and access to shade or cooled spaces, among other measures.

Florida Farmworkers Push For Fairness In The Fields

South Florida was known as a hotbed for modern-day slavery. Now, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are using their innovative model to bring dignity to the tomato fields. Immokalee, Florida, is known for producing nearly all of the winter tomatoes in the United States. Up until recently, the town also had a reputation for being home to some of the worst labor exploitation in the country, with sexual violence, wage theft, and assault occurring regularly in the tomato fields. The working conditions were so bad that the town was considered “ground zero for modern slavery” in the United States. But one group has spent the last two decades transforming the conditions for Florida farmworkers. Through the use of boycotts, supply chain agreements, and an innovative monitoring program, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has made massive inroads in creating a safe workplace for one of labor’s most exploited communities.

Boycott Driscoll’s This Week In Support Of Workers

From the Boycott Driscolls Campaign. The 80,000 farmworkers in San Quintin, Baja California (Mexico), who are fighting for a collective-bargaining agreement with BerryMex, the Mexican subsidiary of Driscoll's Corporation, need your support. These are workers who toil in semi-slave-like conditions. They want improved wages and working conditions; they want an end to the sexual harassment of women fieldworkers; they want dignity and the recognition of their newly formed independent trade union: SINDJA.

Scores Of Farm Workers, Activists March On Ben & Jerry’s

By Wilson Ring for Associated Press - MONTPELIER, Vt. - Scores of dairy farm workers and activists marched Saturday to a Ben & Jerry’s factory to push for better pay and living conditions on farms that provide milk for the ice cream maker that takes pride in its social activism. Protesters said Ben & Jerry’s agreed two years ago to participate in the so-called Milk with Dignity program, but the company and worker representatives have yet to reach an agreement. “We can’t wait any more. We are going to pressure them and see what happens,” said Victor Diaz, a Mexican immigrant now working on a farm in Vergennes. The march that began Saturday morning in Montpelier ended mid-afternoon at the plant in Waterbury, about 14 miles away. Organized Will Lambek said the marchers presented a letter to company CEO Jostein Solheim who said the company was committed to joining the program.

True Food Systems Change From The Bottom Up

By Families United for Justice. On June 15th FUJ members turned out to overwhelmingly ratify the tentative collective bargaining agreement presented by their negotiations committee. After an overview of the contract the Mixteco and Triqui hand harvesters, men and women, lined up to cast their ballots. Official vote counters Jeff Johnson President of the WA State Labor Council and Steve Garey former President of the Steelworkers Local 12-591 tallied the vote and announced it was over 85% in favor of ratifying the tentative agreement. The harvesting season will begin soon with contractual benefits for members of FUJ hand harvesting the berries. Among the benefits union members will receive is an average $15 an hour wage. While this contract is truly a great victory, C2C's vision for a better food system stretches far beyond this moment.

Boycott Wendy’s

By Coalition of Immokalee Workers. For over three years, farm workers and consumers have been demanding that Wendy’s join its major competitors – Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Subway and Burger King – in participating in the Fair Food Program. Yet, Wendy's has instead consciously and shamefully opted to profit from farm worker poverty and abuse, continuing to cling to the low-bar standards of the past when presented with an acclaimed and proven alternative. Rather than participate in what was called the "best workplace-monitoring program” in the U.S. in the New York Times, Wendy's ran from responsibility and abandoned the Florida tomato industry altogether. In response to increasing pressure from consumers to join the Fair Food Program, Wendy's released a new code of conduct for its suppliers, a perfect example of the failed, widely-discredited approach to corporate social responsibility that is completely void of effective enforcement mechanisms to protect farm workers’ human rights.

It’s Time to Scrap NAFTA, Not ‘Tweak’ It

By Victor Suarez and Alejandro Villamar for Foreign Policy in Focus. Some politicians and “experts” still don’t understand — or don’t want to understand — that a great deal of popular discontent in the United States, Mexico, and Canada alike is rooted in undemocratic policies that have produced inequality, unemployment, migration, food dependency, and pollution. NAFTA isn’t the only factor — but it’s one of the most powerful. The reason is that NAFTA was never designed for the development of our peoples through trade, but instead to advance the narrow corporate interests of multi-national firms and the governments that serve them. In the case of Mexico, it was negotiated and signed by an authoritarian government that only served the interests of large Mexican and global corporations, and which turned its back on productive sectors linked to the domestic market.

Sakuma Agrees To Negotiate A Contract With Farm Workers

By Whatcom-Skagit General Membership Branch, IWW. Four Years Struggle Three Years Boycott, Sakuma Finally Ready to Negotiate- FUJ Response to Sakuma Press Statement on MOU Burlington, WA - We at Familias Unidas Por la Justica (FUJ) are certainly encouraged that Sakuma Berry Farms has relented to the pressure of the ‪#‎BoycottDriscolls‬ campaign and the workers voices in the fields to finally agree to begin negotiations. We want to make three things very clear: 1. Sakuma Brothers Farms approached us at FUJ indirectly to begin the process. 2. We have agreed to meet on a date proposed by them. 3. They asked for confidentiality about this prior to our meeting with them.
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