Some good news and a reminder that the broken political system in Washington DC is not the only place in which change can be made. State and local governments, economic pressure and organizing, taking it to the streets, strikes, there are many places where real change is possible:
Recently, both the California Senate and Assembly passed SB 104, “The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.” Introduced by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 104 would give the state’s more than 400,000 farm workers an alternative to on-the-job polling place elections to decide whether to join a union. The new option would allow them to fill out state-issued representation ballots in their homes, away from bosses’ threats and other interference. If a simple majority – more than 50 percent – of workers signs the ballots, their jobs would be unionized.
Legislation that would make it easier for farm workers to join unions will be delivered to Gov. Jerry Brown on June 16 by hundreds of farm workers from across California. The action kicks off a 12-day campaign, including a fast, to persuade the governor to sign the bill.
At 12:00 noon on June 16, church bells will toll at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament as the procession of men, women and children – accompanied by leaders of organized labor and other supporters -- approaches the State Capitol supporting the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act, or SB 104.
At Brown’s office the group will hand over the bill, asking that he sign it into law. Farm workers will bring Cesar Chavez' chair to the Capitol and invite Governor Brown to sit in it when he signs SB 104 into law. The governor will have 12 days to do so.
I've written over the years about the deaths in the fields because of the heat. Here are a few for background:
The deaths are one of many reasons why the only way to fully protect a farm worker in the field is a union. Laws on the books help, but unions make sure the laws are enforced. It's a basic as a water break in 110 degree heat. Basic human rights.
A union representative on the field will ensure workers have water, that their health or safety is not in danger – that the people who provide our food have basic conditions everyone should be afforded. But the only way to ensure that workers have union protection is to ensure they have the protection to join a union.
SB 104 provides farm workers the same basic protection of eliminating employer intimidation the National Labor Relations Act provides most other types of workers. By allowing workers to fill out a union ballot in the safety of their home, SB 104 merely brings farmer workers’ unionization standards up to par with the NLRA – which passed in 1935. It is time to provide farm workers the same protections most workers have had for over 75 years.
Almost to the finish line, but to become law, Governor Jerry Brown must sign the bill:
Now the bill is going to Governor Jerry Brown. If he does not sign SB 104 into law, farm workers will continue to face unbearable conditions and pressure. In an effort to put pressure on Governor Brown to protect farm workers, UFW has created an online petition to gain support. Help provide farm workers this basic labor protection and improve their conditions by signing the petition.
Without this bill, farm workers will continue to face unbearable conditions and pressure. Many workers don't have access to basic things like shade, water, heat training or even breaks during the hot summer days. And nothing will change. Wage and hour violations will continue. Overexposure to pesticides will go unchallenged. Sexual harassment will remain rampant and the health crises caused by a lack of sanitation and lax safety standards will continue to plague farm workers.
You can help change these conditions today. Sign our petition to tell CA Gov. Jerry Brown to sign this bill into law. Let's give the California farm workers, who feed our nation, the basic protections every worker deserves.
"The Fair Treatment of Farm Workers Act" (SB 104 by Senator Darrell Steinberg) is the most important legislation for farm workers in a generation. This new law will make it as easy for farm workers to have a union as you made it for every other worker you could as Governor in 1978. The United Farm Workers has won solid laws to protect workers, but with over 400,000 farm workers migrating among 80,000 farms, these laws cannot be enforced. The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act allows farm workers to enforce the laws themselves. Please sign the Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.
Si Se Puede. Washington may well be broken, but we the people are not.