Healthcare is very important. So is Afghanistan and a host of other issues. Blogs and cable news cover big issues over and over. Here's one that is big to the people involved, but one few have heard about.
One out of every ten bunches of grapes picked in the U.S. are picked by men and women doing that backbreaking job for a single company -- Giumarra. Yet, for all their hard work, Giumarra has for years refused to treat those workers with even the most basic level of respect.
Giumarra has a history of intimidating and bullying workers. Back in 2006, a union election was thrown out by an administrative judge because of their unlawful interference. In addition, two farm workers have died of heat-related causes while laboring in Giumarra’s fields.
The wine you drink is made by a company that treats workers like crap. They are suspended for hours or days without pay if a worker does not pick fast enough or dares to question a supervisor.
It's time this company realizes it is not above the law. It's time they understood that the consumers of Giumarra and their new Nature's Partner label are watching. It's time they treat the workers laboring in fields with dignity and respect and stop retaliating against UFW supporters.
Here are some of the facts:
This situation has escalated to such a degree that on August 17, Oswaldo and two other workers filed ALRB charges against the company. That day their crew boss started unfairly harassing these workers for low production. When the workers explained that they were doing the best they could, but there were barely any grapes in their row, she suspended them for two days for questioning her.
How does being forced to literally race for your job in 100+ degree heat sound? Giumarra worker Flavio Duque tells the story:
"The foreman yelled at all of our crew and said that he had gota call from Salvador Giumarra saying that the worker with less boxes was going to get suspended.
"We were all running in and out of the rows looking for grape to pick because the rows did not have too much grape to pick. A lot of us were not even taking time to go drink water because all wecould think of was to look for grape so that we wouldn't get suspended."
And there's the story of Elba Gonzalez. Elba and her family have been laboring in their fields for the past 7 years. Recently, they became frustrated with the unfair pressure that they had to endure under Giumarra officials.
When a family member was told to go home without pay, the Gonzalez family did the unthinkable. Instead of allowing themselves to be intimidated into silence, they spoke up. They refused to back down. When the pressure from supervisors escalated, this brave family of "Chavistas" told the supervisors that they were going to the UFW and would file a complaint. The supervisor tried to intimidate them by "yelling that we did not know what we were doing, that because of us complaining they would lose their license to sell grapes." The Gonzalezes refused to let the supervisors intimidate them and scare them. They went to the UFW and filed charges anyway.
After they left the fields, they were told by friends that the supervisors tried to scare the other workers into not speaking up. A foreman told the crew "that for next year there would not be work for the Coachella crews and if there was, it would be for a select few."
When Elba and her family returned to work, the foreman interrogated them regarding the charges they filed and "the crew boss commented that for sure, next year we would not be given work. Other workers also told us that we would definitely not be returning next year to work for our participation in union-related activities."
What can we do?
Workers are hoping to have at least 25,000 signatures by the end of the month. Will you help? By signing this petition you can help farm workers fight back.
Full Petition Text:
I am astonished and dismayed at the length that Giumarra goes to in order to keep workers under control. It reflects negatively on your company and the Giumarra Corporation's new label, Nature's Partner.
Giumarra has a history of intimidating and bullying workers. Back in 2006, Giumarra's unlawful interference forced a union election to be thrown out by an administrative judge. Your history with worker protection is also dismal with two farm workers dying from heat-related causes while laboring in your fields. While charges are being filed left and right, your company continues to violate the law.
Instead of moving forth in a new era, under your new label, you have chosen to rise to new levels of bad behavior. Using this tactic to force workers to pick faster under triple digit temperatures or to retaliate against a worker who has the nerve to question a supervisor is just wrong. How can you be Nature's Partner when your absurd quotas and intimidation force workers to endure the searing sun and go without water, shade and breaks?
It's time for your company to realize that you are not above the law. The consumers of Giumarra and your new Nature's Partner label are watching you. Treat the workers laboring in your fields with dignity and respect and stop retaliating against UFW supporters.
Update I: Edited for accuracy. Nature's Partner is not a winemaker but a produce compnay. But whether making wine or table grapes, oppressing workers is wrong.
The Nature's Partner™ brand represents a remarkable network of alliances between The Giumarra Companies and like-minded growers passionate about the highest quality fresh produce.
Both retailers and their customers can trust the Nature's Partner™ brand to be the freshest, most wholesome fruits and vegetables available from around the world - grown, picked, packed and shipped with expertise and care.
Update II: More info from Deoliver47 in the comments from a court filing:
The Respondent is a corporation owned by the Giumarra family from Edison, California. They have been engaged in growing grapes, making and marketing wine since the 1940ís. Respondent claims that in 1996 Giumarra considered re-entering the retail wine business and developed an extensive marketing plan for direct sales to consumers that they named "Wines Direct". The marketing plan included developing a web site that they registered as "winesdirect.com". It is Respondents position that directly marketing wines to consumers does not infringe upon Complainants trademark which is for publishing a newsletter about wine; that they have a legitimate interest in the domain name and even though they have not developed the website; they have developed a plan which shows "demonstrable preparations" for use of the domain name and that they did not acquire or use the name in bad faith.
Farm workers under UFW contract enjoy decent wages, benefits & working conditions. When you purchase agricultural products, please help farm workers maintain hard won victories in the fields by looking for these labels:
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Scheid Vineyards Inc.
Gallo of Sonoma
BLACK EAGLE WINES
United Farm Workers launch Black Eagle Wines. Vineyard workers now offer their own Napa Valley union wines that celebrate justice.
(Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruit, Tangerines)
*Only with the UFW Black Eagle
*Only with the UFW Black Eagle
Dole Berry *
*Only with the UFW Black Eagle
Monterey Mushrooms (California only)
Family Farms Mushrooms
California Mushroom Farms
Patos Dream Date Garden