Sacramento, CA: 10,000 FARM WORKERS MARCH!!!
- 10,000 FARM WORKERS MARCH ON SACRAMENTO
Date: 9/5/2002 12:13:21 AM Pacific Daylight Time
10,000 farm workers march on state capital
By Bill Hackwell
In a sea of waving, red union flags, 10,000 United Farm Workers members and supporters arrived at the steps of the California capitol building Aug. 25 to press their demands for legislation protecting union contracts.
Their arrival in Sacramento was the culmination of an historic march that retraced the route of UFW founder Cesar Chavez, who led a 165-mile farm workers' march from Merced in 1966. That march launched the UFW's long legacy of struggle and brought attention to the poverty conditions faced by the mainly-immigrant workers in the fields.
This year's march, led by UFW President Arturo Rodriguez and union co-founder Dolores Huerta, focused on a single demand to a single person. Marchers demanded that Democratic Gov. Gray Davis sign bill SB 1736 into law.
The bill wouldn't cost the state anything. It would simply force the corporate growers--who profit off the labor of California's poorest workers--to negotiate in good faith with the UFW. It would also allow the union to ask an arbitrator to impose a binding settlement in case of stalled contract talks between farm workers and growers.
Since the inception of the UFW, the growers have refused to sign hundreds of negotiated contracts because there was no enforcement.
Taken separately, California has the fifth-largest economy in the world. The agricultural industry contributes $27 billion yearly to it. Yet farm workers continue to do backbreaking work in hot, chemical-saturated fields for low pay and few benefits.
About 75 percent of California farm workers still earn less than $10,000 per year, and 90 percent have no health benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The growers--through their lobbying group, the Western Growers Association--claim that the law would devastate the struggling agricultural industry. Meanwhile, the growers donated over $150,000 to Davis' reelection campaign as the bill worked its way through the legislature.
Davis will soon have to decide where he stands: with the growers who are lining his pockets or with the farm workers massing at his door.
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